Skip to main content

Full text of "Luther"

See other formats




C. SCHUT, D.D., 

Censor Deputatus 



Vic. Gen. 

Westmonastcrii, die 22 Januarii, 1914. 













" His most elaborate and systematic- biography ... is not 
merely a book to be reckoned with ; it is one with which we cannot 
dispense, if only for its minute examination of Luther s theological 
writings. " The A thencvum. 

"There is no room for any sort of question as to the welcome 
ready among English-speaking Roman Catholics for this admirably 
made translation of the first volume of the German monograph 
by Professor Grisar on the protagonist of the Reformation in 
Europe. . . . The book is so studiously scientific, so careful to 
base its teaching upon documents, and so determined to eschew 
controversies that are only theological, that it cannot but deeply 
interes t Protestant readers." The Scotsman. 

"Father Grisar has gained a high reputation in this country 
through the translation of his monumental work on the History of 
Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages, and this first instalment 
of his life of Luther bears fresh witness to his unwearied industry, 
wide learning, and scrupulous anxiety to be impartial in his judg 
ments as well as absolutely accurate in matters of fact." Glasgow 

" It is impossible to understand the Reformation without under 
standing the life and character of the great German. The man 
and the work are so indissolubly united that we cannot have right 
judgments about either without considering the other. It is one 
of Father Grisar s many merits that he does not forget for a single 
moment the fundamental importance of this connection. The man 
and his work come before us in these illuminating pages, not as 
more or less harmonious elements, but as a unity, and we cannot 
analyse either without constant reference to the other. " Irish 

"Professor Grisar is hard on Luther. Perhaps no Roman 
Catholic can help it. But it is significant that he is hard on the 
anti-Lutherans also. ... He shows us, indeed, though not de 
liberately, that some reformation of religion was both imperative 
and inevitable. . . . But he is far from being overwhelmed with 
prejudice. He really investigates, uses good authorities, and 
gives reasons for his judgments." The Expository Times. 

" This Life of Luther is bound to become standard ... a model 
of every literary, critical, and scholarly virtue." The Month. 

"The most important book on Luther that has appeared since 
DeniftVs epoch-making Luther und Luthertum. 1 ... It is an 
ordered biography, . . . and is therefore very probably destined 
to a wider general usefulness as a Catholic authority." The Irish 



OF THE NEW CHURCH . pages 3-108 


Tho New Church, with its binding formularies of faith and 
its constituted authorities, contrasted with Luther s earlier 
demands for freedom from all outward bonds. The change 
which occurred in his mind in 1522. What prompted the 
reaction ? Did Luther, prior to 1522, ever cherish the idea of a 
" religion minus dogma " ? His clear design from the begin 
ning to preserve all the Christian elements deemed by him 
essential. His assertion of the freedom of the Christian ; 
the negations it logically involved pass unperceived. Greater 
stress laid on the positive elements after 1522 ; the subjective 
counter-current. Ecclesiastical anarchy. Modern Protes 
tants more willing than was Luther to push his principles 
to their legitimate consequences. Conclusion : Tho reaction 
which set in in 1522 implied no real change of view. How 
Luther contrived to conceal from himself and from others the 
incompatibility of his leanings . P^jes 3-21 



Previous to espousing the idea of the Congregational Church 
Luther invites the secular authorities to interfere ; his " An 
den christlichen Adel " ; his hopes shattered ; Luther s 
new ideal : the Evangel not intended for all ; the assembly 
of true Christians ; the Wittenberg congregation and the 
model one established at Leisiiig. The Congregational Church 
proving impracticable, Luther advocates a popular Church ; 
its evolution into the State Church as it afterwards obtained 
in Protestant Germany. Secularisation of church property 
in the Saxon Electorate. Luther s view as to the use to which 
church property should be put by the rulers ; he complains of 
princely avarice. Secularisation of the marriage-courts ; 
matrimonial cases dealt with by secular lawyers ; Luther s 
antipathy for lawyers, how accounted for . . pages 21-43 



Luther casts all reserve to the winds ; his resolve to pro 
ceed regardless of the consequences. His earlier opposition to 


armed resistance ; his memoranda on the subject clearly 
evince his hesitation. His change of view in 1530 ; reasons 
why he veered round ; the change kept secret ; difficulties 
with the Nurembergers ; a tell-tale memorandum published 
by Cochlseus. The League of Schmalkalden ; Luther s hopes 
and fears ; a new memorandum. Luther s misgivings regard 
ing Philip of Hesse s invasion of Wurtemberg ; the expedition 
turning out successful is blessed by Luther. The religious 
war in Luther s private conversations in later years. Later 
memoranda. A question from Brandenburg. Later attempts 
to deny the authenticity of the document signed by Luther 
in 1530 . . p a g es 43_76 



The danger looming in the East. Luther s earlier pro 
nouncements (previous to 1524) against any military 
measures being taken to prevent the Turkish inroads ; 
attitude of the preachers ; imminent danger of the Empire 
after the battle of Mohacz ; Luther s " Vom Kriege widder 
die Tiircken " registers a change of front ; his " Heer-Predigt 
widder den Tiircken " and the approval it conveys of warlike 
measures against the invader ; he robs his call to arms of 
most of its force by insisting on his pet ideas ; his later sayings 
on the subject ; the Turk not so dangerous a foe as Popery. 

pages 76-93 


Luther s sayings about the virtues and vices of his own 
countrymen ; his teaching sunders the Empire and under 
mines the Imperial authority ; his advocacy of resistance ; 
the " Prophet of the Germans " ; discouragement of trade 
and science ; Dollinger on Luther as the typical German ; 
the power of the strong man gifted with a facile tongue 

pages 93-108 

FESTATIONS . pages W9-1Q8 


His conviction of his special call and enlightenment ; his 
determination to brook no doubt ; all his actions controlled 
from on high ; finds a confirmation of his opinion in the extent 
of his success and in his deliverance from his enemies ; his 
untiring labours and disregard for personal advancement ; 
the problem presented by the union in him of the fanatic 
mystic with the homely, cheerful man enjoying to the full 
the good things that come his way ; his superstitions ; his 
" temptations " promote his progress in wisdom. His con 
sciousness of his Mission intensified at critical junctures, for 
instance, during his stay at the Wartburg ; his letter to 
Staupitz in 1522 ; his statement : It is God s Word. Let 
what cannot stand fall ..... pages 108-128 



How Luther describes the Pope and his Court ; his call to 
reform Catholics generally ; his caricature of Erasmus ; now 
later Protestants have taken Luther s claims. Luther s 
apocalyptic dreams ; his exegesis of Daniel viii. ; the Papal 
Antichrist A system rather than a man ; Luther s work on 
Chronology. The Monk-Calf as a Divine sign of the abomina 
tion of Popery and monasticism. Luther s "Amen 
Melanchthon s Pope- Ass . - pages 128- 


Luther on the proofs required to establish an extraordinary 
mission. The distinction between ordinary and extraordinary 
calls His appeal to the rapid diffusion of his doctrine ; the 
real explanation of this spread not far to seek. His appeal to 
his doctorate, to his appointment by authority, and, finally, 
to the "Word of Truth" which was the burden of his 
preaching. Luther s account of the " miracle " of Floren- 
tina s escape from her convent. His unwillingness to ask tor 
the orace of working miracles ; his demand that the fanatics 
should work miracles to substantiate their claims ; his allu 
sions to the power of his own prayer in restoring the sick to 
health. The gift of prophecy ; Luther loath to predict 
anything "lest it should come true." His own so-calle 
predictions. Earlier predictions of mystics and astrologers 
taken by him as referring to himself . . pages 153-] 


pages 109-318 


What may rightly be looked for in a reformer of the 
Church. Luther s contemporaries on his shortcomings : 
Job. Findling, Erasmus, and Fcrreri. The remedy 
proposed by Luther to drive away depression, viz. self- 




His contradictory views on sin, and on penance ; his ideas 
suited to meet his own case and to relieve his own conscience. 
His attitude towards human endeavour ; predestination 
and unfreedom ; the devil s dominion ; the failings of the 
Saints. " Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more boldly 
still " Protestant strictures on Luther s doctrine of sin 

pages 180-199 



Luther on the weakness of his own faith, his doubts, his 
utter misery, and the shortcomings of his life. His attitude 
towards prayer ; prayer mingled with imprecation ; his 
threatened prayer against dishonest brewers. Christian joy 
and peace. Preparation for the sacraments. Mortification 
and self-conquest. Mediocrity as the aim of ethics. Lack of 
zeal for the salvation of all men ; disregard for missionary 
work. Luther in his home ; minor disappointments pages 200-217 




Luther s evening conversations at Wittenberg recorded 
by his friends ; utility of the notes they left ; Walch, Kroker 
and others on the authority of these notes. Excerpts from 
the Table-Talk : The pith of the new religion, viz. confidence 
in Christ. Catholic practices and institutions described : 
The Mass, fasting, confession, the religious life. Praises 
heaped on the Table-Talk by Luther s early disciples. Luther 
himself responsible for the foulness of the language. Pom- 
mer s way of dealing with the devil. Filthy references to the 
Pope ; unseemly comparisons ; " adorabunt nostra stercora." 
Such language by 110 means confined to the Table-Talk ; a 
few quotations from Luther s " Wider das Bapstum zu Rom." 
An excuse alleged, viz. that such language was then quite 
usual. Sir Thomas More s protest. A modern defender of 
Luther. The real explanation of Luther s unrestraint 

pages 217-241 


On the imperative necessity of marriage ; the irresistibility 
of the natural impulse ; the world full of adulterers ? The 
" miracle " of voluntary and chaste celibacy. Luther s 
animus against Popish celibacy. His loosening of the 
marriage-bond. Cases in which marriage is annulled. 
Meaning of the words " If the wife refuse, then let the maid 
come." A modern secularist s appeal to Luther s principles. 
Polygamy. Luther, after some hesitation, comes to tolerate 
polygamy, but makes it a matter of the forum inter num. The 
opinions of Catholic theologians. " Secret marriages " and 
concubinage ; what those have to do who are forbidden by 
law to contract marriage. Denial of the sacramental charac 
ter of matrimony. Luther s tone in speaking of things 
sexual ; a letter to Spalatin ; regret expressed for offensive 
manner of speech ; odious comparisons contained in his 
" Vom Schem Hamphoras " (against the Jews) and " Wider 
Hans Worst " (against the Catholics) ; improper anecdotes ; 
Luther, like Abraham, " the father of a great people," viz. of 
the children of all the monks and nuns who discarded their 
vows . v . pages 241-273 


Simon Lemnius ; fanatics and Anabaptists ; Catholics : 
Hieronymus Dungersheim, Duke George, Ambrosius 
Catharinus, Hoyer of Maiisfeld ; Protestants : Melaiichthon, 
Leo Judae, Zwingli, Bullinger, Joh. Agricola. How far the 
complaints were grounded. Apocryphal legends to Luther s 
discredit : Had Luther three children of his own apart from 
those born to him by Bora ? His jesting letters to his wife not 
to be taken seriously. Did he indulge in the " worst orgies " 
with the escaped nuns in the Black Monastery of Witten 
berg ? The passages " which will not bear repetition." 
Whether Luther as a young monk declared he would bring 
things to such a pass as to be able to marry a girl ; Wolfgang 
Agricola s authority for this statement and the information 
he gives concerning Spalatin. Luther s stay as a boy in 
Cotta s house at Eisenach no ground for a charge of im 
morality. Did Luther describe the lot of the hog as the most 


enviable goal of happiness ? Did he allow the validity of 
marriage between brother and sister ? Whether he counselled 
people to pray for many wives and few children ; variants 
of an ancient rhyme. Did he include wives in the " daily 
bread " for which we pray in the Our Father ? Was he the 
inventor of the proverb : " Who loves not woman, wine and 
song, remains a fool his whole life long " ? . . pages 273-2 


Need of examining critically the charges made against 
Luther ; the number of his literary productions scarcely 
compatible with his having been an habitual drunkard. 
Testimonies of Musculus, the " Dicta Melanchthoniana, 
Ickelsamer, Lemnius, etc. Opinions of Catholics : Cath- 
arirtus Hoyer of Mansfeld, Joh. Landau and others. Luther s 
own statements about his " Good Drink " ; his reasons for 
such indulgence ; his distinction between drinking and drunk 
enness ; his reprobation of habitual drunkenness. Melanch- 
thon and Mathesius, two witnesses to Luther s temperance. 
From the cellar and the tap -room ; gifts in kind made to 
Luther ; his calls on the cellar of the Wittenberg council ; 
the signature " Doctor plenus " appended to one of his letters 
to be read as " Doctor Johannes " ; the " old wine " of the 
Coburg and Luther s indisposition in 1530; beer versus 


wine . 


pages 319 o / o 


What Luther owed to his friend. Their earlier relations ; 
Luther s unstinted praise ; Melanchthon s apprehensions ; 
his work during the Visitation in 1527 ; is horrified by 
Luther s language to Duke George and saddened by the 
" Protest " of the dissidents at Spires. Melanchthon at the 
Diet of Augsburg, 1530. The " Augsburg Confession " and 
its " Apology " characteristic of the writer ; his admission 
regarding the use he had made of the name of St. Augustine ; 
his letter to Cardinal Campeggio ; some contemporaries 
on Melanchthon s " duplicity " ; the Gospel proviso ; 
Melanchthon judged by modern historians ; Luther consoles 
his friend. The l> Erasmian " intermediary . page* ol< 



Melanchthon first accepts the whole of Luther s doctrine, 
but afterwards deviates from it even in essentials ; his 
antipathy to the denial of freedom and to absolute pre 
destination to hell, to faith alone and to the denial of the 
value of works. Penance and the motive of fear. Differs 
from Luther on the question of the Supper and gradually 
approaches the Zwinglian standpoint. Points of accord with 
Luther ; he shares Luther s superstition and belief in the 
Papal Antichrist ; has unjustly been accused of being more 
tolerant than his master ; his ideal a pedagogic one pages 34( 



His interest in the promotion of studies ; his correspond 
ence ; his intimacy with Luther ; his disappointment ; what 
he disliked in Luther ; he meets with little sympathy in 
Luther s circle, though Luther s personal esteem never fails 
him ; the rumour that he was disposed to return to the 
Catholic fold ; his willingness to find congenial employment 
away from Wittenberg ; his tendency to leave religious affairs 
in the hands of the State ..... pages 3GO-378 

OTHERS . . pages 379-416 


Earlier relationship between Zwingli and Luther ; their 
divergent opinions on the Eucharist ; the Marburg Con 
ference between the two ; the power behind this Conference ; 
Luther on Zwingli s untimely end . . . pages 379-385 


Finding W T ittenberg too warm, Carlstadt removes to 
Orlamunde ; his meeting with Luther in the Black Bear Inn 
at Jena ; he goes to Strasburg, and thence to Rothenburg ; he 
is driven by want to accept Luther s conditions ; he breaks 
his promise, escapes to Switzerland and receives an appoint 
ment at Basle. What Luther says of him in the Table-Talk 
and in his " Widder die hymelischen Propheten " : The 
defects of Carlstadt s mission, his violent behaviour, his 
attachment to the Decalogue, his wrong interpretation of the 
Supper, his stress on the inward rather than on the outward 
Word, his unacquaintance with " temptations " . pages 385-400 


Luther on Agricola. Schenk and the question of the Law ; 
an encounter between Schenk and Luther. Egranus s dis 
satisfaction with Luther; Luther s references to the "brood 
of Erasmus " ; the burden of Egranus s complaints pages 400-404 


Luther s admiration for Amsdorf and Brenz. Bugenhagen, 
a legate " a facie et a corde " ; his antecedents ; becomes 
pastor of Wittenberg ; his missionary labours ; his in 
timacy with Luther ; his letters from Denmark ; a female 
demoniac. Friendship between Luther and Jonas as attested 
by the Table-Talk ; chief events of Jonas s life . pages 404-416 


THE PROPOSED COUNCIL . . . pages 417-449 


The Swiss theologians on Luther and his doctrine. The 
Anabaptists and Luther s opinion of their doings at Miinster. 


Pope Paul III. Efforts of the Protestants to reach an 
understanding among themselves ; Martin Bucer ; the 
Wittenberg Concord ; attempts to secure the adhesion of the 
Swiss ; Luther pockets his scruples ; collapse of the negotia 
tions ; Luther s " Kurtz Bekentnis " . . pages 417-424 


Pope Paul III. determines to hold a Council at Mantua in 
1537. Vergerio dispatched by the Pope to Germany to 
smooth the way ; the Legate invites Luther to breakfast 
with him at the Castle of Wittenberg ; his description of his 
guest ; his own subsequent apostasy . . pages 424-430 


The Schmalkalden League. The league of the Catholic 
Princes. Luther s " Artickel " for the Schmalkalden con 
vention. Melanchthon s endeavour to arrange matters. 
Luther s willingness to promote the Council. The discussions 
at Schmalkalden; Melanchthon s backhanded proceedings. 
Luther, prostrated by an attack of stone, desires to be re 
moved so as not to die in a town denied by the presence of a 
Papal envoy. His parting benediction : " Deus vos impleat 
odio Papce." The agreement subsequently reached at 
Schmalkalden. Luther makes his " First Will " ; his re 
covery ; his imprecatory Paternoster . . pages 430-438 


Melanchthon s sudden change of attitude whilst at Schmal 
kalden ; he emulates Luther ; reason of the change ; 
Melanchthon s preference for the " needle," Luther s for the 
" hog-spear." Melanchthon s work for Luther in the Anti- 
nomian and Osiander controversies ; his " Gonfessio Au- 
gustana variata " tacitly sanctioned by Luther ; Bucer and 
Melanchthon and the " Cologne Book of Reform " ; Bucer is 
violently taken to task by Luther, but Melanchthon is spared. 
The last joint work of Luther and Melanchthon, viz. the 
"Wittenberg Reformation " (1545) . . pages 438-449 

VOL. Ill 





1. Luther s Religious Situation. Was his Reaction a Break 
with Radicalism? 

FROM the date of the presentation of the " Confession " at 
the Diet of Augsburg, Lutheranism began to take its place 
as a new form of religious belief. 

Before this it had ostensibly been merely a question of 
reforming the universal Church, though, as a matter of fact, 
the proposed reform involved the entire reconstruction of 
the Church. Now, however, Lutherans admitted at least 
indirectly, by putting forward this new profession of faith 
that it was their intention to constitute themselves into a 
distinctive body, in order to impart a permanent character to 
the recent innovations in belief and practice. The Protes 
tants were prepared to see in Germany two forms of faith 
existing side by side, unless indeed the Catholic Church 
should finally consent to accept the " evangelical " Pro 
fession of Faith. 

It is true, that, in thus establishing a formula of faith 
which should be binding on their followers, the Lutherans 
were taking up a position in contradiction with the principle 
of private judgment in matters of faith, which, in the begin 
ning, they had loudly advocated. This was, however, 
neither an isolated phenomenon, nor, considering the 
circumstances, at all difficult to understand. The principles 
which Luther had championed in the first part of his career, 
principles of which the trend was towards the complete 
emancipation of the individual from outward creeds and 
laws, he had over and again since his first encounters with 
the fanatics and Anabaptists honoured in the breach, and, 
if he had not altogether discarded them, he had at least 
come to explain them very differently. 



Hence a certain reaction had taken place in the mind of 
the originator of the schism upon which in some sense the 
Confession of Augsburg set a seal. 

The extent of this reaction has been very variously 
estimated. In modern times the contrast between the 
earlier and later Luther has been so strongly emphasised 
that we even hear it said that, in the first period of his 
career, what he stood for was a mere " religion of humanity," 
that of a resolute " radical," whereas in the second he 
returned to something more positive. Some have even 
ventured to speak of the earlier stage of Luther s career, until, 
say, 1522, as " Lutheran," and of the later as " Protestant." 

In order to appreciate the matter historically it will be 
necessary for us to take a survey of the circumstances as 
a whole which led to the change in Luther s attitude, and 
then to determine the effect of these factors by a com 
parison between his earlier and later life. 

Amongst the circumstances which influenced Luther one 
was his tardy recognition of the fact that the course he had 
first started on, with the noisy proclamation of freedom of 
thought and action in the sphere of religion, could lead to no 
other goal than that of universal anarchy and the destruc 
tion of both religion and morality. The Anabaptist rising 
served to point out to him the results of his inflammatory 
discourses in favour of freedom. He was determined that 
his work should not degenerate into social revolution, for 
one reason because he was anxious to retain the good-will of 
the mighty, above all of the Elector of Saxony. When the 
Peasant rising, thanks to the ideas he had himself put forth, 
began to grow formidable he found himself compelled to 
make a more determined stand against all forms of radical 
ism which threatened disintegration. This he did indeed 
more particularly in the political domain, though his changed 
attitude here naturally reacted also on his conception of 
matters religious. 

He treated Andreas Carlstadt and Thomas Miinzer as foes, 
not merely because they were turbulent and dangerous 
demagogues, but also because they were his rivals in the 
leadership of the movement. The " Spirit," which he had 
formerly represented as the possession of all who opposed to 
the old Church their evangelical interpretation of Scripture, 
he was now obliged to reserve more and more to himself, in 


order to put a stop to the destructive effect of the multi 
plicity of opinions. Instead of the " inward word " he now 
insisted more and more on the " outward word," viz. on 
the Bible preaching, as authorised by the authorities, i.e. 
according to his own interpretation. The mysticism, which 
had formerly lent a false, idealistic glamour to his advocacy 
of freedom, gradually evaporated as years went by. Having 
once secured a large following it was no longer necessary for 
him to excite the masses by playing to their love of innova 
tion. After the first great burst of applause was over he 
became, in the second period of his life, rather more sober, 
the urgent task of establishing order in his party, par 
ticularly in the Saxon parishes which adhered to his 
cause, calling for prudent and energetic action on his 

In this respect the Visitation in 1527 played a great part 
in modifying those ideas of his which tended to mere arbi 
trariness and revolution. 

Now that the doctrines of the preachers had been made 
to conform more and more to the Wittenberg standard ; 
now that the appointment of pastors had been taken out of 
the hands of the Congregations and left to the ruler of the 
land, it was only natural that when the new national 
Church called for a uniform faith, a binding confession of 
faith, such as that of Augsburg, should be proclaimed, 
however much such a step, such a " constriction and oppres 
sion " of freedom, might conflict with the right of private 
judgment displayed at the outset on the banner of the 

Such were, broadly stated, the causes which led to the 
remarkable change in Luther s attitude. 

On the other hand, those who opine that his ardour had 
been moderated by his stay at the Wartburg seem to be 
completely in the wrong. The solitude and quiet of the 
Wartburg neither taught Luther moderation, nor were 
responsible for the subsequent reaction. Quite otherwise ; 
at the Wartburg he firmly believed that all that he had 
paved the way for and executed was mystically confirmed 
from above, and when, after receiving his " spiritual 
baptism " within those gloomy walls, he wrote, as one 
inspired, to the Elector concerning his mission, there was 
as yet in his language absolutely nothing to show the likeli- 


hood of his withdrawing any of the things he had formerly 
said. Upon his return to Wittenberg he at once took a 
vigorous part in the putting down of the revolt of the fanatics, 
not, however, because he disapproved of the changes in 
themselves this he expressly disclaims but because he 
considered it imprudent and compromising to proceed in 
so turbulent a manner. 1 

If, in order to estimate the actual extent of the reaction 
in Luther s mind, we compare his earlier with his later 
years, we find in the period previous to 1522 a seeth 
ing, contradictory mixture of radicalism and positive 

We say a mixture, for it is not in accordance with the 
historical sources to say that, in those first stormy years of 
Luther s career, what he stood for was a mere religion of 
humanity, or that his mode of thought was quite unchristian. 
Had this been the case, then the contrast with his later 
period would indeed be glaring. As it is, however, Luther s 
statements, as previously given, prove that, in spite of 
certain discordant voices, his intention had ever been to 
preserve everything in Christianity which he regarded as 
really positive, i.e. everything which in his then state of 
thought and feeling he regarded as essential. 2 Indeed, he 
was even disposed to exaggerate the importance of a 
positive faith in Christ and man s dependence upon God 
at the expense of man s natural power of reason. " In spite 
of all his calls for freedom and of his pronounced individual 
ism " he preached an extravagant " dependence upon 

1 According to Maurenbrecher, " Studien mid Skizzen zur Gesch. der 
Reformationszeit," p. 235, Luther " fell back from the position he had 
assumed from 1519 to the beginning of 1521 owing to the subjective, 
and also objective, impossibility [of proceeding in so radical a way as 
previously.]" H. Lang, a Protestant, whose "M. Luther, ein religioses 
Charakterbild," 1870, he quotes, goes still further, and ascribes to 
Luther the entire abandonment of his own principles ; he is also of 
opinion that Luther does not disguise the fact that [in the Anabaptist 
business] he would have considered all in order had the reforms been 
carried out by himself. " That he was vexed to see others reap where 
he had sown, is only human nature," says Lang ; thus he " sided with 
the reactionaries," though he had really taught what the fanatics 
were putting in practice ; from that time forward he advocated a 
"mediaeval ecclesiasticism," deprived the Congregations of the manage 
ment of the reform, which they had set about so vigorously, and trans 
ferred it to the rulers. Such a view is widely held among Protestant 
historians to-day. 

2 Cp. vol. ii., p. 398 f. 


God." 1 So far was he from the slightest tendency to embrac 
ing a religion of pure reason that he could not find terms 
sufficiently opprobrious to bestow on reason. We also 
know that he did not evolve his doctrine of Justification 
in the second or so-called reaction period, as has recently 
been stated in order to accentuate the contrast, but in the 
first period and in the quite early stage of his development. 

His Latin Commentary on Galatians (1519), with the new 
doctrine of Justification, 2 expresses faith in the Redeemer and 
His Grace in terms of startling force ; he requires of the children 
of God the fruits of Grace, and attention to every word of 

After that year and till 1521, the "Operations in Psalmos 
prove both his desire for a positive religion and his own earnest 
ness in directing others to lead a Christian life ; 3 the doctrine of 
Justification therein advocated was admitted by him, even in his 
old age, to have been " faithfully set forth." 4 

As other examples which certainly do not go to prove any 
conscious tendency towards theological radicalism, we may 
mention his work on the Ten Commandments and the Our 
Father, which he published in 1520 for the unlearned and for 
children ; 5 the sermons, which he continued the whole year 
through ; various discourses which he published in 1519, such as 
that on the Twofold Justice, 6 in which he treats of the indwelling 
of Christ in man ; that on Preparation for Death, where he 
inculcates the use of Confession, of the Supper and even of 
Extreme Unction, teaching that hope is to be placed in Christ 
alone, and that Saints are to be honoured as followers of Christ 
finally, many other writings, sermons, letters, already dealt with, 
dating from the time prior to the change. 

In view of the statements of this sort with which Luther s 
early works teem we cannot accept the assertion that the 

1 J. Schmidlin, in the article "Das Luther turn als historische 
Erscheinung " in the " Wissenschaftl. Beilage zur Germania," 

Nos. 14-16, p. 117. The writer even speaks of the " Klotz-Abhangig- 
keit" on God which was Luther s ideal. 

2 " Werke," Weirn. ed., 2, p. 430 ff. ; Erl. eel., " Comment. inGalat., 
l,p. iii. ff. ; 3, p. 121 f. 

3 Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 275 f. 

4 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen " (Loesche, p. 75 ff.). 

& Cp. Kurcz Form der czehen Gepott, etc., " Werke," Weim. ed., 
7, p. 214 ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 15 : " Faith is divided into three principal 
parts, according to the three persons of the Holy Trinity," etc. 

6 " Werke," Weim. ed., 2, p. 41 ft 1 ., 14:) fi . ik Opp. lat. var., 2, p. 
322 seq., 329 seq. 

7 Ibid., pp. 686, 689; Erl. ed., 21, pp. 259, 261. In the latter 
passage he refers to the " sign of Grace," which is " Christ on the Cross 
and all His dear Saints." 


words " Christ, Gospel, Faith and Conscience " were merely 
intended by Luther to lend a " semblance of religion " to 
his negations, and were, on his lips, mere biblical phrases. 
Louis Saltet, a Catholic historian of the Church, is right in 
his opinion concerning this new theory : "A negative 
Lutheranism dominant from 1517 to 1521 is something not 
vouched for by history " ; that the author of the new 
teaching " had arrived at something very much like theo 
logical nihilism is a supposition which there is nothing 
to prove." 1 

As for Luther s then attitude towards the Bible, he actually 
exaggerates its importance at the expense of reason by asserting 
that reason, whilst well aware of the contradictions and the 
foolishness of the truths of revelation, was nevertheless obliged 
to accept them. The incomprehensibility, ever taught by 
theologians, of many of the mysteries of the faith, for the under 
standing of which human reason alone does not suffice, Luther 
represents as an open contradiction with reason ; reason and 
philosophy, owing to original sin, must necessarily be in opposition 
to God, and hence faith does actual violence to reason, forcing it 
to submit, contrary to its present nature and to that of man. 
Hence, in his estimate of Holy Scripture, far from being a rational 
ist, he was, as a modern Protestant theologian puts it, really an 
" irrationalist," holding as he did that an " unreasonable obedi 
ence to Holy Scripture " 2 was required of us. According to 
this same theologian, Luther starts from " an irrational concep 
tion of God s veracity," indeed it is God, Who, according to 
Luther, " by the gift of faith, produces in man the irrational 
belief in the truth of the whole Divine Word." Thus does Luther 
reach his "altogether irrational, cut-and-dry theology." 3 If 
the Wittenberg Professor asserts later, that no religion is so 
foolish and contrary to reason as Christianity, and that never 
theless he believes " in one Jew, Who is called and is Jesus 
Christ," 4 this belief, so singularly expressed, was already present 
to him in his first period, and the same may be said, so the 
authority above referred to declares, of his apparent adoption in 
later years of more positive views, " since Luther s theological 
convictions never underwent any essential change." 5 

1 In " Bull, de litter, ecclesiast.," 1909, p. 198 f. 

2 O. Ritschl, " Dogmengesch. des Protest antismus " (" Prolegomena. 
Biblicismus und Traditionalismus in der altprotest. Theol."), 1908, p. 98. 

3 Ibid., pp. 102, 103, 105. 

" Tischreden," "Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 63. Cp. ibid., p. 7 and 
p. 100 and other passages where similar phrases occur. He says, for 
instance, of belief : " The Articles of Faith are contrary to all phil 
osophy, geometry, arithmetic and indeed to all reason. It is a question 
of est, non, yes and no. This no one can reconcile." For this 
reason he would not come to any "agreement" with Zwingli, who 
thought otherwise. 5 Ritschl, ibid., p. 79. 


If from the positive we pass to the negative side of Luther s 
teaching, we do indeed find the latter more predominant 
during the first period of his career. An almost revolutionary 
assertion of religious freedom is found side by side with the 
above utterances on faith, so that Adolf Harnack could wit 
some justice say that " Kant and Fichte both arc conceale 
in this Luther." 1 

"Neither Pope, nor bishop, nor any man," according to what 
Luther then says, " has a right to dictate even a syllable to t 
Christian without his own consent." 2 If you have grasped 
Word in faith, then "you have fulfilled all the commandments 
and must be free from all things"; the believer becomes 
" spiritually lord of all," and by virtue of his priestly dignity, 
"he has power over all things." 3 "No laws can be imposed 
upon Christians by any authority whatsoever, neither by n 3n 
nor by angels, except with their own consent, for we 
all things." 4 "What is clone otherwise is gross tyranny. . . . 
We may not become the servants of men." " But few there 
who know the joy of Christian liberty." 5 

Applying this to faith and the interpretation of Scripture, ti 
says, for instance, in 1522 : " Formerly we were supposed to have 
no authority to decide," but, by the Gospel which is now 
preached, " all the Councils have been overthrown and set aside ; 
no one on earth has a right to decree what is to be believed. J 
I am to decide what is false doctrine, then I must have the rig 
to judge." Pope and Councils may enact what they will, 
have my own right to judge, and I may accept it or not as . 
please." At the hour of death, he continues, each one must see 
for himself how he stands ; " you must be sharp enough to decid 
for yourself that this is right and that wrong, otherwise ] 
impossible for you to hold your own." " Your head is in danger, 
your life is at stake ; God must speak within your bre; 
say : This is God s Word, otherwise all is uncertain. Thus^yoi 
must be convinced within yourself, independent of all men. 

The individualistic standpoint could scarcely be expressed 
more strongly. The appeal to the voice of God " speaking 
in the heart " renders it all the more forcible by introducing 
a pseudo-mystic element . It is an individualism which might 

1 " Preuss. Jahrbiicher," 136, 1909, p. 35, in dealing with Luther s 
" thisworldliness." r . JP 

2 "De captivitate baby].," " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 
" Opp. lat. var.," 5, p. 68. 


logically be made to justify every form of unbelief. In such 
devious paths as these did Luther lose himself when once 
he had set aside the doctrinal authority of the Church. 

In his practical instructions and in what he says on the 
most important points of the doctrine of salvation, he ever 
arrogates to himself a liberty which is in reality mere way 

If the Sacraments were committed to the Church by her Divine 
Founder, then she must put the faithful under the obligation of 
making use of them in the way Christ intended ; she may not, 
for instance, leave her subjects free to bring their children to be 
baptised or not, to confess or not to do so, to receive the Sacra 
ment of the Altar or to refrain from receiving it altogether. She 
may, indeed she must, exercise a certain compulsion in this 
respect by means of ecclesiastical penalties. Luther, however, 
refused to hear of the Church and her authority, or of any duty 
of obedience on the part of the faithful, the result being that the 
freedom which he proclaimed nullified every obligation with 
respect to the Sacraments. 

In the booklet which he composed in the Wartburg, " Von der 
Beicht ob der Bapst Macht habe zu gepieten " (1521), wherein 
he sets aside the duty of Confession, he says of the use of the 
Sacraments, without troubling to exclude even Baptism : " He 
[man] is at liberty to make use of Confession if, as, and where he 
chooses. If he does not wish you may not compel him, for no 
one has a right to or ought to force any man against his will. 
Absolution is nevertheless a great gift of God. In the same way 
no man can, or ought to, be forced to believe, but everyone should 
be instructed in the Gospel and admonished to believe ; though 
he is to be left free to obey or not to obey. All the Sacraments 
should be left optional to everyone. Whoever does not wish to 
be baptised, let him be. Whoever does not wish to receive the 
Sacrament, has a right not to receive ; therefore, whoever does 
not wish to confess is free before God not to do so." l 

The receiving of Holy Communion, he declared then and on 
other occasions, was to remain optional, although in later years 
lie was most severe in insisting upon it. Concerning this Sacra 
ment, at the commencement of 1520 in his " Erklerung etlicher 
Artickel," he said that Christ had not made the reception of the 
Sacrament compulsory ; reception under one kind or under both 
was not prescribed, although " it would be a good thing to receive 
under both kinds." 2 

May we, however, say that Luther made the reception of the 

1 " Worko," Weim. eel., 8, p. 157 ; Erl. od., 27, p. 343. 

2 " Since Christ never commanded that the Sacrament should be 
received by everyone, it is permissible not only to receive only 
under one kind, but under neither." " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 79 ; 
Erl. ed., 27, p. 72. Cp. Weim. ed., 6, p. 507 : " Cum Christ us non 
praecepisset ulla (specie] uti." 


Cotfe s sion and instances Baptism as a parallel case is certainly 

aufas in the case o the others. He, moreover, declares unmh- 
ately afterwards that Christ demands BapfaB.ii and the <xra 
ment." Elsewhere, when again advocating freedom m the 
matter of Confession and defending the work above referred to 
he says: "I will have no forcing and compelling. Bait 
baptism I commend ; no one, however may be forced o accept 
it but only admonished and then left free to choose. 
the ess he had certainly not been sufficiently careful in his choice 
of "and had allowed too great play to Ins b" <le*re 
for freedom when, at the conclusion of the passage quoted 
is booklet On Confession," he seemingly asserts man s freedom 

commandments in Holy Scripture put in practice, mst d ot 
attending only to the man-made ordinances of Popes and I 

One modern school of Protestant unbelief professes to 
base itself on the earlier Luther, and, in almost every pa 
tieular, justifies itself by appealing to him. 

Such theologians arc, however, overstepping the limits 
of what is right and fair when they make out the Luther o 
that earlier period to have been a true representative 
that form of unbelief just tinged with religion which is their 
own ideal. As a matter of faet, Luther, had he been logical, 
should have arrived at this conclusion, but he preferred 
turn aside, repudiate it, and embrace the profound 

iero (in scripture; v\u uo.v^ ^^^ n ~*.:-* 

it is "seriously an^ strictly commanded that we 1 
of not being saved." - t; TI^^UP, " v 

2 To Haupold and others on September H 1521 Werke, 
ed., 16^, p . 257, and ibid., 53, p. 77 ( Briefwechsel, 3, p. 236). 

3 The editor of the Weimar ed., 8, p. 132. 


diction involved in the union of that right of private judgment 
he had proclaimed, with the admission of binding dogmas. 
Freedom in the interpretation of the sense of Scripture, or 
more correctly the setting aside of all ecclesiastical and 
ostensibly human authority, has been termed the formal 
principle of Luthcranism ; the doctrine of Justification, 
viz. the chief doctrine of Luthcranism, was called by the 
older theologians its material principle. Both principles 
were at variance with each other in Luther s mind, just as 
there can be no composition between arbitrary judgment 
and formulte of faith. History has to take Luther as he 
really was ; he demanded the fullest freedom to oppose the 
Church and her representatives who claimed the right to 
enact laws concerning faith and morals, but he most certainly 
was not disposed to hear of any such freedom where belief 
in revelation, or the acceptance of God s commandments, 
was concerned. In the domain of the State, too, he had no 
intention of interfering with due subjection to the authori 
ties, though his hasty, ill-considered utterances seemed to 
invite the people to pull down every barrier. 

In the second period, from 1522 onwards, his tone has 
changed and he becomes, so to speak, more conservative 
and more " religious." 

The principle of freedom of interpretation he now pro 
claims rather more cautiously, and no longer appeals in so 
unqualified a manner to the universal priesthood and the 
sovereignty of the Congregation in matters of religion. Now 
that the State has come to assume the direction of the 
Church, Luther sees fit to make his own some of the con 
servative ideas usually dear to those in power. As a 
preservative against abuse of freedom he lays great stress 
on the " office," and the call to the work of preaching given 
by superior authority. " Should a layman so far forget 
himself as to correct a preacher," says Heinrich Bohmer 
when dealing with Luther s attitude at this period, " and 
speak publicly, even to a small circle, on the Word of God, 
it becomes the duty of the authorities, in the interests of 
public order, to proceed against him as a disturber of the 
peace. How contradictory this was with the great Reformer s 
previous utterances is patent, though very likely he himself 
did not clearly perceive it. The change in his convictions on 


this point had taken place all unnoticed simultaneously 
with the change in the inward and outward situation of the 
evangelical party. . . . That his [earlier] view necessarily 
called not only for unrestricted freedom to teach, but also 
for complete freedom of worship, was indeed never fully 
perceived by the Reformer himself." l 

The two divergent tendencies, one positive and the other 
negative, arc apparent throughout Luther s career. 

The positive tendency is, however, more strongly empha 
sised in the second period. We shall hear him giving vent 
to the most bitter complaints concerning those who interpret 
Holy Scripture according to their own ideas and introduce 
their own notions into the holy and unchanging Word of 
God. As exemplifying his own adherence to the truths of 
Christianity, the great and solemn profession of faith con 
tained in the work he wrote in 1528 on the Supper, has been 
rightly instanced. As P. Albert Weiss remarks, he makes 
this " fine profession with an energy which goes straight 
to the heart " and " in words which bear honourable testi 
mony to the depth of his conviction " ; it is true that here, 
too, the contrast to the Catholic Church, whose belief he so 
passionately depreciates, forces itself like a spectre before 
his mind. 2 " This is my belief," he says at the end of the 
list of Christian dogmas which he accepts, " for this is what 
all true Christians believe and what Holy Scripture teaches. 
Whatever I may have left unsaid here will be found in my 
booklets, more particularly in those published during the 
last four or five years." 3 

i " Luther im Lichte der neueren Forsclmng," 1906, p. 127 (omitted 
in the 2nd edition). In 1524 Luther, when engaged with Munzer, st 
held that " all should preach stoutly and freely as they were able and 
against whomsoever they pleased. . . . Let the spirits fall upon one 
another and fight it out. Should some be led astray so much the 
worse" True doctrine being the fittest would nevertheless survive 
and prevail. To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony 
July, 1524, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 265 (" Brief weehsel, 4, p. 3/2). 
The contradiction involved in the freedom which Luther apparently 
concedes to him was pointed out by Munzer in his " Sohutzrede 
Fol C III., " Briefwechsel," 4, p. 375. Hence when Luther counselled 
that the revolt should be put down by force of arms, those who c< 
sidered the war unjust, for instance because they happened to hold 
Anabaptist views, could well appeal to Luther and refuse to lend 
assistance. (See present work, vol. ii., p. 311 f.) _. 

2 A. Weiss, Luther und Luthertum," Demfle, vol. 11., 1 

P< a " Werke," Weim. ed., 26, p. 509 ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 372 f. 


Hence when it is asserted by Protestants of rationalist 
leanings that Luther recognised only one form of faith, 
viz. trust in Christ, and that he reduced all religion to this, 
it should be pointed out that he required at the same time a 
belief in all revealed truths, and that his doctrine of confident 
faith in one s personal salvation and of trust in a Gracious 
God and Saviour, was ultimately based on a general act of 
faith ; " Faith," he says, in a sermon which was later 
embodied in his Church-postils, " really means accepting as 
true from the bottom of our heart what the Gospel says 
concerning Christ, and also all the articles of faith." 1 It is 
true that Luther ever insisted on awakening of confidence, 
yet the " fides fiducialis " as explained by him always pre 
supposes the existence of the " fides historical 

With Luther faith in the whole of Divine revelation comes 
first, then the trusting faith which " trusts all to God." 2 

" His whole manner of life," Otto Ritschl says, " so far as it 
was directed to the attainment of practical aims, was funda 
mentally religious, in the same way as his most important 
doctrines concerning God, Christ, the Law, Sin, Justification, 
the Forgiveness of Sins and Christian Freedom all breathe the 
spirit of faith, which, as such, was confidence." The Protestant 
theologian from whom we quote these words thinks it necessary 
to say of the contradictions in Luther which have been instanced 
by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that " at least in Luther s 
own way of thinking," they were not such, for he based his 
faith on the " revelation given by God s Word in Holy Scrip 
ture." 3 

In the polemical writings directed against Luther, it was 
pointed out, concerning his faith, that he himself had described 
faith as a mere " fancy and supposition " (opinio). We would, 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 12 2 , p. 221. 

2 Though it might be urged that he subordinates the first too much 
to the second even in his earlier period. In the " Kurcz Form der 
czehen Gepott," etc. (1520), " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 215 ; Erl. ed., 
22, p. 15, he teaches : " that there are two ways of believing : First, 
concerning God, when I believe what is said of God to be true, just 
as I believe that to be true which is said of the Turks, of the devil, 
or of hell ; this faith is more a sort of knowledge, or observation, than 
real faith. According to the other we believe in God (Credo in Deum), 
i.e. when I not only believe that to be true which is said of God, but 
place my trust in Him. ... It is only such a faith which hazards all 
on God . . . which makes a Christian. . . . This is a living faith . . . 
and this none can give but God alone." The Catholic Church, however, 
had always required a " living faith," one working by charity (fides 
caritate formata). It is remarkable how much, in the above passage, 
Luther allows the formal principle of historical faith, viz. the authority 
of the Revealing God, to recede into the background. 

3 O. Ritschl, " Dogmengesch. des Protestantismus," 1, p. 81. 


however, suggest the advisability of considerable caution, for 
according to other passages and from the context, it is plain that 
what he intends by the word " opinio " is rather a belief, and, 
besides, he adds the adjective " firma " to the word incriminated. 
It is of course a different question whether the absolute cer 
tainty of faith can be attributed to that faith on which he lays 
such great stress, viz. the purely personal fides fiducialis in 
one s salvation through Christ, and, further, whether this cer 
tainty can be found in the articles, which, according to Luther s 
teaching, the Christian deduces from the Word of God in Scripture 
by a subjective examination in which he has only his own private 
judgment to depend on. 

However this may be, we find Luther till the very end insisting 
strongly on the submission of reason to the Word of God, so that 
E. Troeltsch, the Heidelberg theologian, could well describe his 
attitude as medieval on account of the subjection ho demands to 
dogma. For this very reason he questions the view, that Luther 
really " paved the way for the modern world." Troeltsch, 
nevertheless, is not disinclined to see in Luther s independence 
of thought a considerable affinity with the spirit of modern days. 1 
This brings us to the other side of the subject. 

Let us follow up the other, the negative, tendency in 
Luther, from 1522 onwards, which makes for complete 
religious independence. 

Of one doctrine in which it is manifest Harnack says, 
and his statement is equally applicable to others : " The uni 
versal priesthood of all the faithful was never relin 
quished by Luther, but he became much more cautious in 
applying it to the congregations actually in existence." 5 
Luther, according to him, expresses himself " very vari 
ably " concerning the "competency of the individual 
congregations, of the congregations as actually existing or 
as representing the true- Church." 

The author of the schism, in spite of all the positive 
elements he retained during the whole of this period of 
reaction and till the very end, had no settled conception of the 
Church, and the subjective element, and with it the negative, 
disintegrating tendency therefore necessarily predominated 
in his mind. It is not only Catholics, from their standpoint, 

1 " Histor. Zeitschrift," 97, p. 1 ff. Art. : " Die Bedeutung ^des 
Protestantismus fur die Entstehung der modernen Welt," p. 28: " It 
is evident that Protestantism cannot be regarded as directly paving the 
way for the modern world. On the contrary, it appears rather as an 
entire reversion to mediaeval fashions of thought. It is shown that 
Protestantism was and yet is, at least to some extent, a hindrance to 
the development of the modern world." 

2 " Dogmengesch.," 3 4 , p. 830, n. 


who assert that his whole life s work was above all of a 
destructive character, for many Protestant writers who 
look below the surface agree with them, notwithstanding 
all their appreciation for Luther. 

" Wittenberg," says Friedrich Paulsen, " was the birthplace 
of the revolutionary movement in Germany. . . . Revolution is 
the fittest name by which to describe it." The term " Reforma 
tion," is, he declares, inexact ; a " reformation," according 
to Paulsen, was what " the great Councils of the fifteenth century 
sought to bring about." " Luther s work was not a reforma 
tion, a re-shaping of the existing Church by her own means, but 
a destruction of the old form ; indeed, we may say, a thorough 
going denial of the Church." Paulsen points out that, in his 
work addressed to the knights of the Teutonic Order, Luther 
advocates " ecclesiastical anarchy " in seeking to lead them to 
despise all spiritual authority and to break their vow of chastity. 
The tract in question was repeatedly published as a broadside, 
and passed into the Wittenberg and other early collections of 
his works. 1 

From the Catholic standpoint, says Gustav Kawerau, " Paul- 
sen was quite right in branding Luther as a revolutionary " ; 
Luther s new wine could not, however, so he says, do otherwise 
than burst the old bottles. 2 

The " wine " which Luther had to offer was certainly in 
a state of fermentation, which, with his rejection of all 
ecclesiastical authority, made it savour strongly of nihilism. 
According to Luther religious truth had been altogether 
disfigured even in Apostolic times, owing to the rise of the 
doctrine of free-will. " For at least a thousand years," he 
repeatedly asserts, truth had been set aside because, owing 
to the illegal introduction of external authority in the 
Church, " we have been deprived of the right of judging and 
have been unjustly forced to accept what the Pope and the 
Councils decreed " ; yet no one can " determine or decide 
for others what faith is," and, since Christ has warned us 
against false prophets, " it clearly follows that I have a right 
to judge of doctrine." 3 

One person only has the right of this he is ever sure 

1 Letter of December, 1523, " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 232; 
Erl. ed., 29, p. 16 (" Briefwechsel," 4, p. 266). There we read : " God 
is older than all the Councils and the Fathers." " Are we to send 
God to school and prune the feathers (quill pens) of the Holy Ghost ? " 
" We hazard all on the Word . . . against all the Churches." Ibid., 
p. 235-238 = 21-25. 

2 " Theolog. Literaturztg.," 1884, p. 37 seq. 

3 " Werke," Erl, ed., 13 2 , p. 228. Church postils 


to proclaim doctrines as undeniable truths come down from 
heaven. " I am certain that I have my dogmas from 
heaven." 1 "I am enlightened by the Spirit, He is my 
teacher." 2 " We have seen him raised up by God," so his 
friends declared immediately after his death, 3 and, so far as 
they were in agreement with him, they claimed a heavenly 
authority on his behalf. In spite of all this Luther never saw 
fit to restrict in principle the freedom of determining and 
judging doctrine ; the meaning of Scripture he permits 
every man to search out, the one indispensable condition 
being, that Scripture should be interpreted under the 
inspiration of the Spirit, from on high, in which ease he 
presumed that the interpretation would agree with his own. 
The numerous " clear and plain " passages from Scripture 
which were to guide the interpreter, were to him a guarantee 
of this ; he himself had followed nothing else. The mis 
fortune is that he never attempted to enumerate or define 
these passages, and that many of those very passages which 
appeared to him so clear and plain were actually urged 
against him ; for instance, the words of institution by the 
Zwinglians and the texts on Justification by certain of his 
followers and by the Catholics. 

The fact that freedom in the interpretation of the Bible pro 
duced, and must necessarily produce, anarchy of opinion, has, 
by the representatives of the Rationalistic school of Protestant 
theology, been urged against the positive elements which Luther 
chose to retain. The tendency which, had he not set himself 
resolutely against it, would have brought Luther even in later 
years face to face with a purely naturalistic view of life, has been 
clearly and accurately pointed out. Paul Wernle, a theologian 
whose ideal of a renewed Christianity is a natural religion clad in 
religious dress, points to the anarchy resulting from the multitude 
of interpretations, and attacks Luther s Bible faith for the 
contradictions it involves. " The appeal to Bible Christianity, 
and Primitive New Testament Christianity, produced a whole 
crop of divergent views of Christianity " ; " the limitations of 
this Renascence of Christianity," which was no real Renascence 
at all, are, he says, very evident ; Luther had summed up " the 
theology of Paul in a one-sided fashion, purely from the point of 
view of fear of, and consolation in, sin"; his comprehension 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 184 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 6, p. 391. 

2 Ibid., 6, p. 540 = 5, p. 74. 

3 Through the " Reformer sent by God," the Father had " revealed " 
the mystery of His Son. Thus Bugenhagen, on February 22, 1546. 
Cp. vol. vi., XL., 2. 


of Paul was " one-sided, repellent and narrow," and, in favour 
of Paul, " lie depreciated most unjustly the first three Gospels " ; 
the new theology " rested exclusively on Romans and Galatians," 
and, root and branch, is full of contradictions. 1 

Luther himself invited such criticism by his constant advocacy 
of individualism in his later no less than in his earlier years. " If 
individualism be introduced even into religious life," writes E. 
Troeltsch, " then the Church loses her significance as an absolute 
and objective authority." And concerning the " whole crop of 
views on Christianity " which sprang from such individualism, 
he says with equal justice : "A truth which can and must live in 
so many embodiments, can of its very nature never be expressed 
in one simple and definable form. It is in its nature to undergo 
historical variations and to take on different forms at one and 
the same time." 2 But this is the renunciation of stable truth, in 
other words : scepticism. 

Denifle put it clearly and concisely when he said : " Luther 
planted the seed of present-day Protestant incredulity." 3 

"The tendency of the Reformation," declares W. Herrmann, 
a representative of ultra-liberal Protestant theology, was in the 
direction of the views he holds, viz. towards a rationalistic 
Christianity, not at all towards " the view of religion dear to 
orthodox theology." He is convinced, that "it is high time for 
us to resume the work of the Reformers and of Schleiermacher, 
and to consider what we are really to understand by religion." 
Religion is not an " unreasoning " faith in dogmas, nor a " non- 
moral " assent to alien ideas, " but a personal experience " such 
as the great Reformation doctrine of Justification rightly assumed. 
Yet, even now, theologians still lack that " comprehension of 
religion common to all." All that is needed is to take Luther s 
ideas in real earnest, for, according to Herrmann, the " true 
Christian understanding of what faith, i.e. religion [in the above, 
modern sense], is, was recovered at the Reformation." Thus only, 
he concludes, can we escape from the hindrances to belief pre 
sented by the present development of science." 4 

It is with a similar appeal to Luther that another theologian, 
P. Martin Rade, the editor of the " Christliche Welt," spreads his 
sails to the blast of modern infidelity. According to him Luther 
was " one of the fathers of subjectivism and of modern ways " ; 
Luther, by his doctrine of Justification by faith, gave to subjective 
piety " its first clumsy expression " ; the faith which Luther 
taught the world was an " individual staking " of all on God s 
mercy. Yet, he complains, there are people within the Evaii- 

" Die Renaissance des Christentums im 16 Jahrh.," 1904, p. 30 ff. 

" Die christliche Religion " in " Kultur der Gegeiiwart," 1, p. 4, 
397. Ibid. : " The final result is the recognition by Protestantism of 
an internal antinomy of religion and Church, which are unable to 
subsist without each other nor yet to suffer each other, from which 
conflict there can only spring a fresh presentment of the purer, 
churchless, Christian idea." 

" Luther und Luthertum," 1, p. G89 (I 2 , p. 723). 
4 "Zeitschrift fur Theol. und Kirche," 18, 1908, p. 74 seq., 147 seq. 


gelical Church who are still afraid of subjectivism. " This fear 
torments the best, and raises a mighty barrier in front of those 
who struggle onwards." The barrier is composed of the articles 
of the creed which have remained upstanding since Luther s 
day. And yet "each scholar can, and may, only represent 
Christianity as it appears to him." " For us Protestants there 
is in these circumstances only one way. We recognise no external 
authority which could cut the knot for us. Hence we must take 
our position seriously, and embrace and further the cause of 
subjectivism." Thanks to Luther " religion has been made 
something subjective ; too subjective it can never be ... all 
precautions adopted to guard against religious subjectivism are 
really unevangelical." We must, on the contrary, say with Luther : 
" God will always prevail and His Word remains for all eternity, 
and His truth for ever and ever." " Let the Bible speak for itself 
and work of itself " without any " human dogma," and then you 
have the true spirit of Luther s Reformation, " the very spirit 
which breathed through it from the day when it first began to 
play its part in the history of the world." This writer is well 
acquainted with the two great objections to that principle of 
Luther, which lie praises, yet lie makes no attempt to answer 
them any more than Luther himself did. The first is : " Where 
is all this to end ? Where shall wo find anything stable and 
certain ? " He simply consoles the questioner by stating that 
"Science provides its own remedy." The second objection s: 
" But the masses require to be governed, and educated," in 
other words, religion must be an assured, heaven-sent gift to all 
men, whereas only the few are capable of proving things for 
themselves and following the profession of the learned. " Herein 
lies the problem," is the resigned answer, " which we do not fail 
to recognise, and with it Protestantism has hitherto proved itself 
sadly incapable of grappling " ; " entirely new forces are re 
quired " for this purpose. Whence these forces are to come, wo 
are not told. 1 

That all are not determined to follow T the course which Luther 
had entered upon is but natural. To many the Wittenberg 
Professor remains simply a guardian of the faith, a bulwark of 
conservatism, and even the safety-valve he opened many would 
fain see closed again. Characteristic of this group is the coin- 
plaint recently brought forward by the Evangelical " Monats- 
korrespondenz " against Friedrich Nietzsche, for having described 
Luther s reformation, with scant respect, as the " Peasant 
Revolt of the mind," and spoken of the " destruction of throne 
and altar " which he had brought about. 2 

If, from the above, we attempt to judge of the range of 
Luther s so-called " reaction " in his second period, we 
find that it can no more be regarded as a return to positive 

1 " Christliche Welt," 1904, No. 26. 

2 " Monatskorr. des Evangel. Bundes," 1908, No. 9. 


beliefs than his first period can be described as almost 
wholly Rationalistic. In both cases we should be guilty of 
exaggeration ; in the one stage as well as in the other there 
is a seething mixture of radical principles and tendencies 
on the one hand, and of Christian faith and more positive 
ones on the other. In his earlier years, however, Luther 
allows the former, and, in the second, the latter to predomi 
nate. Formerly, at the outset of the struggle, he had been 
anxious to emphasise his discovery which was to be the 
loosing of imaginary bonds, while the old beliefs he still 
shared naturally retreated more or less into the background ; 
now, owing partly to his calmer mode of thought, partly to 
insure greater stability to his work and in order to shake off 
the troublesome extremists, Luther was more disposed to 
display the obverse of the medal with the symbols of faith 
and order, without however repudiating the reverse with the 
cap of liberty. How he contrived to reconcile these contra 
dictions in his own mind belongs to the difficult study of his 
psychology. On account of these contradictions he must 
not, however, be termed a theological nihilist, since he 
made the warmest profession of faith in the principles of 
Christianity ; neither may he be called a hero of positive 
faith, seeing that he bases everything on his private accept 
ance. To describe him rightly we should have to call him 
the man of contradictions, for he was in contradiction not 
merely with the Church, but even with himself. The only 
result of the so-called reaction in Luther during the twenties, 
and later, was the bringing into greater prominence of this 
inner spirit of contradiction. 

The startling antagonism between negation and belief 
within his mind found expression in his whole action. 
Though his character, his vivacity, imaginativeness and 
rashness concealed to some extent the rift, his incessant 
public struggles also doing their part in preventing him from 
becoming wholly alive to the contradictions in his soul, yet 
in his general behaviour, in his speech, writings and actions 
we find that instability, restlessness and inconstancy which 
were the results at once of this contrast and of the fierce 
struggle going on within him. The vehemence which so 
frequently carries him away was a product of this state of 
ferment. Often we find him attempting to smother his 
consciousness of it by recourse to jesting. His conviviality 


and his splendid gift of sympathy concealed from his friends 
the antagonism he bore within him. All that the public, 
and most of his readers, perceived was the mighty force of 
his eloquence and personality and the wealth and freshness 
of his imagery. They sufficed to hide from the common 
herd the discrepancies and flaws inherent in his standpoint. 
Wealth and versatility, such are the terms sometimes 
applied by Protestants to the frequent contradictions met 
with in his statements. In the same way the ambiguity of 
Kant s philosophy has been accounted one of its special 
advantages, whereas ambiguity really denotes a lack of 
sequence and coherence, or at the very least a lack of 
clearness. Truth undehlcd displays both wealth and 
beauty without admixture of obscurity or of ambiguity. 

Luther s " wealth " was thus described by Adolf Hausrath : 
" Every word Luther utters plays in a hundred lights and every 
eye meets with a different radiance, which it would gladly fix. 
His personality also presents a hundred problems. Of all great 
men Luther was the most paradoxical. The very union, so charac 
teristic of him, of mother-wit and melancholy is quite peculiar. 
His wanton humour seems at times to make a plaything of the 
whole world, yet the next moment this seemingly incurable 
humorist is oppressed with the deepest melancholy, so that he 
knows not what to do with himself. . . . In one corner of his 
heart lurks a demon of defiance who, when roused, carries away 
the submissive monk to outbursts which he himself recognises as 
the work of some alien force, stronger than his firmest resolutions. 
He was the greatest revolutionary of the age and yet lie was a 
conservative theologian, yea, conservative to obstinacy. . . . 
He insisted at times upon the letter as though the salvation of 
the entire Church depended upon it, and yet we find him rejecting 
whole books of the Bible and denying their Apostolic spirit. 
Reason appears to him as a temptress from the regions of enchant 
ment, intellect as a mere rogue, who proves to his own satis 
faction just what he is desirous of seeing proved, and yet, armed 
with this same reason and intellect, Luther went out boldly into 
the battle-fields of the prolonged religious war." 1 

2. From the Congregational to the State Church 

In the first stage of his revolt against the Church, Luther 
had imagined that the new order of things could be brought 
about amongst his followers merely by his declaiming against 
outward forms ; repeatedly he asserted that the Christian 

1 " Luthers Leben," 1, p. vii. f. 


life consisted wholly in faith and charity, that faith would 
display its power spontaneously in good works, and that thus 
everything would arrange itself ; a new and better Church 
would spring up within the old one, though minus a hier 
archy, minus all false doctrine and holiness-by-works. 

Up to the commencement of the twenties his efforts had, 
in fact, been directed not to the setting up of new congre 
gations but to the reconstruction of the existing Church 
system. Previous to his drafting of the plan comprised in the 
writing he sent to Prague, on the appointment of ecclesi 
astical ministers (vol. ii., p. Ill f.), in which we find the 
congregational organisation proposed as a model for the 
German Church, he was as yet merely desirous of paving 
the way for what he looked on as a reformation within the 
already existing Church, and this by means of the rulers 
and nobles. 

His work " An den christlichen Adel," to which we must 
now return in order to consider it from this particular stand 
point, was composed with this object. By it he sought to 
rouse the rulers and those in power who had opened their 
hearts to the " Christian " faith, i.e. to the new Evangel, 
to take in hand the moral and religious reformation on the 
lines indicated by himself. Thus he appealed, as almost all 
sectarians had instinctively done from the very first, to the 
secular authorities and the power of the Princes in order to 
attain his special ecclesiastical ends. The secular Estates, 
already covetous of increased power and independence, 
were invited in these fiery pages to take their stand against 
the Papacy and the hierarchy, just as they would against 
" a destroyer of Christendom," 1 and " to punish them 
severely" on account of divers disorders and "for their 
abuse of excommunication and their shocking blasphemies 
against the name of God," 2 in short, " to put an end to the 
whole affair."3 The last words, found in the writing " On 

1 " An den christlichen Adel," " Werke," Weim. ed., p 428 
Erl. ed., 21, p. 307. 

2 Ibid., 429 = 308. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 258 ; Erl. ed., 1C 2 , pp. 197 f. : " Seeing 
that Bishops and Prelates remain quiescent, do not resist, care but 
little and so leave Christendom to go to destruction, we must humbly 
implore God s help to oppose the evil, and after that put our own 
hands to the job. . . . It is not right that we should support the 
servants and menials of the Pope and even his court fools and harlots 
to the harm and injury of our souls. . . . These, surely, are the real 


good works," were addressed to the " King, the Princes, 
Nobles, Townships and people generally." 

Thus to force the two powers, secular and ecclesiastical, 
out of their spheres, handing over the supervision of the 
Church to the secular authorities 1 can only be characterised 
as an attack upon the whole Christian and moral order of 
things on the whole previous development of the thurc 
and on the highest principles of religion. It is true that 
Catholic States had already appropriated many ol 
ricrhts really appertaining to the Church, but to carry their 
interference so far as Luther advised, had never yet occurred 
to them. Indeed, the subversion of order planned by Luther 
was so great, that the impossibility of carrying out n 
project must have speedily become apparent to him. As a 
matter of fact, the actual number of those whose hearts had 
been awakened by the Evangel to the extent of sharing 
Luther s extreme views was not at all considerable. 

When anxious friends pointed out to Luther 
revolutionary his undertaking was, his excuse was merely 
this " I am blameless, seeing that my only object is t 
induce the nobles of Germany to set a limit to the en 
croachments of the llomanists by passing resolutions and 
edicts not by means of the sword ; for to fight against an 
uiiwarlike clergy would be like fighting against women and 
children." 2 Hence, so long as no blood was shed, the over 
throw of the legal status of the Church met with his full 


The torrents of angry abuse which Luther soon alt 
wards poured forth upon those in power because they WOT 

Turks whom the King, the Princes and the Nobles ought to attack 
fiist * just as a father of a family who has gone out of his mind must 

be placed under restraint and controlled The best and only thing 

to do was for the King, Princes, Nobles, townships and parishes to 
put thSrhands to the business and make an end of it themselves so 
that the bishops and clergy, who are so timorous, may be -able ^ f ^ . 

Nor must any attention be paid to the ban and the threa 
means of which they fancy they can save their skins 

1 In strange contrast, to the last passage quoted ho goes 
inculcate themost respectful obedience to the !<^ ^ 
Even though they do what is wrong, stil God wills that they should 
be obeyed without subterfuge or danger (p. 2o9 = \?^ ^hey have 
nothing to do with the preaching and the faith. They must not 
be resisted even though they do what is unjust (M,). Ihere -are 
many abuses prevalent amongst the secular authorities, etc. (p. tw 
199). He is accordingly very anxious for their improvement. 

2 To Spalatin, February 27, 1521, " Briefwechsel, 3, p. JO. 


not follow his call and allow themselves to be " awakened," 
were simply proofs of the futility of his plan. 

No demagogue had ever before filled Germany with such noisy 
abuse of the Princes as Luther now did in works intended for the 
masses, where he declared, for instance, that " God has sent our 
Rulers mad " ; that " they command their subjects just what 
they please " ; that they are " scamps " and " fools " ; that he is 
forced to resist, " at least by word," these " ungracious Lords 
and angry squires " on account of their " blasphemies against 
the Divine Majesty." 1 He denounced them to the populace as 
having heaped together their " gold and goods " unjustly, just 
as " Nimrod had acquired his goods and his gold." 2 He accuses 
them "of allowing everything to drift, and of hindering one 
another " ; " plenty of them even vindicate the cause of Anti 
christ," 3 therefore the Judgment of God must fall upon our 
" raying Princes." " God has blinded them and made them 
stupid that they may run headlong to destruction." 4 

This he wrote on the eve of the fearful events of the Peasant 

Thus his ideal of the future was now shattered, viz. the 
spiritual society and new Christendom which he ha d planned 
to establish with the help of the Princes. " This dream 
passed rapidly away. All that remained was a deep-seated 
pessimism. . . . From that time the persuasion grew on 
him that the world will always remain the same, that it can 
never be governed according to the Evangel and can never 
be rendered really Christian ; likewise, that true Christians 
will always be but few in number." 5 

Hence these few Christians must become the object of his 
solicitude. He is more and more inspired by the fantastic 
notion that Popery is to be speedily overthrown by God 

1 Preface to the writing " Von welltlicher Uberkeytt wie weytt man 
yhr Gehorsam schuldig sey " (1523). "Werke," Weiin. ed 11 p. 
246 ; Erl. ed., 22, p. G2 f. 

" Vom Missbrauch der Messen," 1521-1522, "Werke," Weim. ed., 
8, p. 561; Erl. ed., 28, p. 139. To Spalatin, August 15, 1521, " Brief- 
wechsel, 3, p. 219: " Principem ease et non aliqua parte latronem 
esse, out non aut vix possibile cst, coque maiorem, quo maior princeps 
fuetit." This he says in excuse of his acceptance of the hospitality of 
the Wartburg offered him by the Elector. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 679 ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 48 f. " Von 
welltlicher Uberkeytt." 

4 To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony, July, 1524. 
Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 210 f. ; Erl. ed., 55, p. 256 f. (" Briefwech- 

sel, 4, p. 372). Cp. for above passages P. Drews " Entsprach das 
Staatskirchentum dem Ideale Luthers ? " in " Zeitschrift fur Theol 
uid Kirche," 18, 1908, Erganzungsheft, p. 31 ff. 

5 Drews, ibid., p. 34. 


Himself, by His Word and by the breath of His Mouth. In 
the meantime he expects the new Church to develop spon 
taneously from the congregations by the power of God, 
even though at first it should consist of only a small number 
of faithful souls. 

The congregational ideal, as a passing stage in his theory 
of Church formation, absorbed him, as we have already 
seen, more particularly from the year 1523. The congrega 
tions were to be self-supporting after once the new teaching 
had been introduced amongst them. In accordance with the 
Evangel, they were to be quite independent and to choose 
their own .spiritual overseers. From among these, super 
intendents were to be selected, to be at the head of the 
congregations of the country, and as it were general-bishops, 
assisted by visitors, of course all laymen, no less than those 
from whom they derived their authority and by whom, for 
instance for bad doctrine, they might be removed. The 
above-mentioned letter sent to Prague, on the appointment 
of ministers in the Church (1523), contained further details. 
Other statements made by Luther about that same time, 
and already quoted, supply what is here lacking; for instance, 
his ascribing to each member of the congregation the right 
of judging of doctrine and of humbly correcting the preacher, 
should he err, even before the whole assembly, according 
to the Spirit of God which inspires him. 1 

Thus he had relinquished the idea of proceeding by means 
of the assistance of the Princes and nobles, and had come to 
place all his hopes in the fruitiulncss and productive power 
of the congregational life. 

But here again he met with nothing but disappointment. 
It was not encouraging to lind, that, on the introduction of 
the new teaching and in the struggle against alleged formal 
ism and holiness-by-works, what Christian spirit previously 
existed was inclined to take to flight, whilst an unevan- 
gelical spirit obtruded itself everywhere. Hence his en 
largement of his earlier congregational theory by the scheme 
for singling out the faithful, i.e. the true Christians, and 
forming of them a special community. 

Just as his belief in the spontaneous formation of a new 
state of things testified to his abnormal idealism, so this new 
idea of an assembly within the congregation displays his 
1 Cp. vol. ii., p. 113. 


utter lack of any practical spirit of organisation. As to how 
far this perfecting of his congregational Churches tended to 
produce a sort of esoteric Church, will be discussed else 
where (vol. v., xxix., 8). 

As his starting-point in this later theory lie took the pro 
position, which he believed could be reconciled with the Gospel, 
viz. that the Gospel is not for all ; it is not intended for the " hard 
hearted " who " do not accept it and are not amenable to it," 
it is not meant for " open sinners, steeped in great vices ; even 
though they may listen to it and not resist it, yet it does not 
trouble them much " ; still less is it for those, " worst of all men, 
who go so far as to persecute the Gospel." " These three classes 
have nothing to do with the Gospel, nor do we preach to such as 
these ; I only wish we could go further and punish them, the un 
mannerly hogs, who prate much of it but all to 110 purpose, as 
though it [the Gospel] were a romance of Dietrich of Bern, or 
some such-like tale. If a man wants to be a pig, let him think 
of the things which are a pig s. Would that I could exclude such 
men from the sermons." 1 

In reality, as is evident from passages already quoted and as 
Luther here again goes on to point out, the Gospel was intended 
for " simple " consciences, for those who, " though they may at 
times stumble, are displeased with themselves, feel their malady 
and would gladly be rid of it, and whose hearts are therefore not 
hardened. These must be stirred up and drawn to Christ. To 
none other than these have we ever preached." The latter 
assertion is not, of course, to be taken quite literally. It is, 
however, correct that he considered only the true believers as real 
members of the Church, for these alone, viz. for people who had 
been touched by the Spirit of God and recognised their sins, 
was his preaching intended. 2 These too it was whom he desired 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed., II 2 , p. 245 f. Church Postils. Sermon for 
Easter Monday, published in 1523. Order and instruction [how 
henceforward the sacrament is to be received]. Cp. ibid., p. 197. Cp. 
our vol. iL, p. 298, where Luther says : " Those who do not believe do 
not belong to the kingdom of Christ, but to the kingdom of the 


" Troubled consciences " alone would appreciate the consolation 
in his chief doctrine, viz. that of Justification, for which reason Melaiich- 
thon in the apology of the Augsburg Confession (" Symbol. Biicher 10 ," 
pp. 87, 90, 118, 120, 174) is fond of representing Justification by faith 
alone under the aspect of a solace and consolation amidst the terrors of 
conscience caused by the consciousness of sin. AVhoever had not ex 
perienced such fears could have no real understanding of Justification. 
Such a view of Justification, K. Holl, a Protestant theologian, remarks 
had its value while it was still a question of winning over Catholics to 
the new teaching, since, according to Luther, the Catholic trust in 
works necessarily led to " despair." But, in the new generation, who 
had grown up as Lutherans, " consciences were already comforted 
before ever they experienced any terrors " ; nor did Luther make it 
at all plain how often, i.e. whether " once only or more frequently," 
it was necessary to experience the consoling power of the Gospel 


to unite if possible into an ordered body. Side by side with this 
he saw in his mind the great congregational Church, termed by 
him the " masses " ; this Church seemed, however, to him, It 
a Church than a field for missionary labour, for its members were 
yet to be converted. The idea of a popular Church was, never 
theless, not altogether excluded by the theory of the separate 
Church of the true believers. 

More particularly at Wittenberg he was desirous of seeing 
this segregation of the " Christians " carried out, quietly 
and little by little. He prudently abstained from exerting 
his own influence for its realisation, and preferred to wait 
for it to develop spontaneously " under the Spirit of God." 
The idea was, as a matter of fact, far too vague. He also 
felt that neither he nor the others possessed the necessary 
spiritual authority for guiding hearts towards this goal, for 
preserving peace within the newly founded communities, or 
for defending them against the hostile elements outside. 
As for his favourite comparison of his theory of the congrega 
tion with that in vogue in Apostolic times, it was one which 
could not stand examination. His congregations lacked 
everything the moral foundation, the Spirit from above, 
independent spiritual authority and able, God- enlightened 
superiors to act as their organs and centres. 

At Leisnig in the Saxon Electorate (cf. vol. ii.. p. 113) 
an attempt to call an ideal evangelical community into 
existence was made in 1523, the Church property being 
illegally confiscated by the magistrates and members of the 
parish, and the ancient right of the neighbouring Cistercian 
house to appoint the parish-priest being set at nought by 
the congregation choosing its own pastor ; here the inevit 
able dissensions at once broke out within the community and 
the whole thing was a failure. The internal confusion to 
which the congregation would be exposed through the 
doctrine of private illumination and " apostolic " rights, is 
clear from the very title of the work which Luther composed 
for Leisnig : " That a Christian assembly or parish has the 
right and power to judge of doctrine and to give the call to, 
and appoint and remove, its pastors," etc. 1 

amidst terrors of conscience in order to arrive at the full assurance of 
Justification. " Die Rechtfertigungslehre im Lichte der Gesch. d 
Protestantismus," 1906, p. 14. 

1 " Das eyn Christliche Versamlung odder Gemeyne . . . Macht 
habe alle Lere zu urteylen." " Werke," Weim. ed., 11, p. 401 ft. ; 
Erl. ed., 22, p. 140 ff. 


In spite of the evident impracticability of the scheme, 
the phantom of the congregational Church engrossed the 
author of the ecclesiastical schism for about ten years. Nor 
did he ever cease to cherish the idea of the Church apart. 
It was this idea which inspired the attacks contained in 
his sermons upon the multitude of lazy, indolent and un 
believing souls to whom it was useless to preach and who, 
even after death, were only fit for the flaying-ground because 
during life they had infected the invisible, living com 
munity. He is heedless of what must result, in the towns, 
villages and families, from any division into Christians and 
non-Christians, nor docs he seem to notice that the system 
of the Church apart could only produce spiritual pride, 
hypocrisy and all the errors of subjectivism in those singled 
out by the Spirit, to say nothing of the obstinacy and 
wantonness engendered in those who were excluded. 

The popular Church, of which it was necessary to make the 
best, owing to the impracticability of the Church apart, 
apparently embraced all, yet, within it, according to Luther, 
the true believers formed an invisible Church, and this in 
a twofold manner, first, because they were themselves not 
to be recognised, and, secondly, because the Word and 
the Sacrament, from which they derived their religious life, 
concealed a whole treasure of invisible forces. 

With such imperfect elements it was, however, impossible 
to establish a new Church system. A new phase was 
imminent, towards which everything was gravitating of its 
own accord ; this was the State Church, i.e. the national 
Church as a State institution, with the sovereign at its head. 
The various congregational churches formed a visible body 
frequently impinging on the outward, civil government, and 
largely dependent on the support of the authorities ; hence 
their gradual evolution into a State Church. The local and 
national character of the new system paved the way for this 
development. Luther, whilst at the bottom of his heart 
anxious to check it for his ideal was an independent 
Church came, under pressure of circumstances, to cham 
pion it as the best and only thing. A popular Church 
or State Church had never been his object, yet he ultimately 
welcomed the State Church as the best way to meet diffi 
culties ; this we shall see more clearly further on. In his 
efforts to overcome the apathy of the masses he even had 


recourse to compulsion by the State, inviting the authorities 
to force resisters to attend Divine Worship. 1 

Luther should have asked himself whether the moral 
grandeur and strength which, in spite of its favourable 
appearance, the congregational Church lacked, would be 
found in the compulsory State Church. This question he 
should have been able to answer in the negative. It was a 
radical misfortune that in all the attempts made to infuse 
life into the branch torn away by Luther from the universal 
Catholic Church the secular power never failed to interfere. 
The State had stood sponsor to the new faith on its first 
appearance and, whether in Luther s interest or in its own, 
the State continued to intervene in matters pertaining to 
the Church. This interweaving of politics with religion 
failed to insure to the new Church the friendly assistance 
of the State, but soon brought it into a position of entire 
subservience in spite of the protests of the originator of the 

The jurisdiction of the State within the " Church/ in the 
case of the early Lutheran congregations, did not amount to 
any actual government of the Church by the sovereign. 
This, in the appalling form it was to assume, was a result of 
the later Consistories. What, with Luther s consent, first 
passed into the hands of the secular authorities was the 
jurisdiction in certain external matters which, according 
to the earlier Canon Law, really belonged to the Bishop s 
court. When episcopal authority was abolished the Elector 
of Saxony assumed this jurisdiction as a sort of bishop 
faute-de-mieux, or, to use Melanchthon s expression, as the 

1 We have indicated in tho above our own position with respect to 
two opposing views recently put forward concerning the development 
of the early Lutheran Church, viz. P. Drews, " Entsprach das Staats- 
kirchentum dem Ideale Luthers ? " (see above, p. 24, n. 4), and IT. 
Hermelink, " Zu Luthers Cedanken fiber Idealgemeindeii und von 
weltlicher Obrigketo," in " Zeitsehr. fiir KCi.," 29, 1908, p. 207 ff., 
with epilogue on Drews. See also vol. v.. xxx., 2, on State and State 
Church according to Luther s views and complaints. While Drews 
emphasises the c congregations of true believers " as ; Luther s ideal " 
(p. 103), Hermelink lays stress on the fact that Luther always believed 
that in the last instance the Christian authorities would be forced to 
introduce and see to the uniformity of worship in their lands. The 
disagreement on so vital an historical question only emphasises anew 
the want of consistency in Luther and the contradictions contained 
in his statements. See vol. ii., p. 112, n. 1. Cp. p. 294 ff., and the 
quotation (from W. Hans) : " The contradictions in the theory 
[Luther s] and between his theory and practice can never be explained." 


principal member of the Church (" membrum prcecipuum 
ecclesice"). 1 The jurisdiction in question concerned, above 
all, matrimonial cases which, according to Luther, belonged 
altogether to the secular courts, matters of tithes, certain 
offences against ecclesiastical or secular law and points of 
Church discipline affecting public order. Luther had 
declared that the Church possessed no power to govern, 
that the only object for which it existed was to make men 
pious by means of the Word, that the secular authority was 
the only one able to make laws and formally to claim 
obedience "whether it does right or wrong. 2 Hence 
the State in assuming jurisdiction in the above matters was 
doing nobody any injustice, was merely exercising its right, 
whilst the authority of which it made use was not " ecclesi 
astical," but merely the common law exercised for the 
purpose of preserving "sound doctrine" and the "true 
Church." 3 

The next step was the appointment of ecclesiastical super 
intendents by the sovereign and, either through these or 
without them, the nomination of pastors by the State, the 
removal of unqualified teachers, the convening of ecclesi 
astical synods or " consultations," the carrying out of 
Visitations and the drawing up of Church regulations. Here 
again no objection on the point of principle was raised by 
Luther, partly because the power of the keys, according to 
him, included no coercive authority, partly because the 
idea of the " membrum prcecipuum ecclesice " was elastic 
enough to permit of such encroachments on the part of the 
ruler. 4 In the Protestant Canon Law, compiled by R. Sohm, 
all the above is described, under appeal to Luther, as coming 
under the jurisdiction of the State, the Church being " with- 

1 Cp. Melanchthon s tract " De potestate papce " added to the 
Schmalkaldeii Articles in " Die symbolischen Biicher," 10 1907, ed. 
Muller-Kolde, p. 339 : " Imprimis autem oportet prcecipua membra 
ecclesice, reges et principes, consulere ecclesice. . . . Prima enim cura 
regum esse debet, ut ornent gloriam Dei" Above all, he says, referring 
to the Papacy, they must not make use of their power " ad con firman- 
dam idolatriam et cetera infmita flagitia et adfaciendas ccedes sanctorum. " 

2 R. Sohm, " Kirchenrecht," 1, 1892, p. 561, who appeals to passages 
in Luther s " Von guten Wercken," 1520, " Werke," Weim. ed 6 
p. 259 ff. ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 198 f. Cp. our vol. ii , p 299 

3 Sohm,- ibid., p. 579. 

4 Melanchthon even describes it as the first duty of the principal 
member of the Church ; " curare, ut errores tollantur et conscientice 
sanentur." " Symbolische Bucher," ibid. 


out jurisdiction in the legal sense " and its business being 
" merely the ministry of the Word." 1 

The introduction of the Consistories in 1539 was a result 
of the idea expressed by Justus Jonas in his memorandum, 
viz. that if the Church possesses no legal power of coercion 
for the maintenance of order, she is fatally doomed to 
perish. To many the growing corruption made an imitation 
of " episcopal jurisdiction in the Catholic style," such as 
Melanchthon desiderated, appear a real need. 2 In the event 
the advice of Jonas was followed, jurisdiction being con 
ferred on the Consistories directly by the ruler of the land. 
After a little hesitation Luther gave his sanction to the new 
institution, seeing that, though appointed by the sovereign, 
it was a mere spiritual tribunal of the Church. The Con 
sistories, more particularly after his death, though retaining 
the name of ecclesiastical courts gradually became a depart 
ment of the civil judicature, a good expression of the 
complete subservience of Church to State. 

" The setting up of the civil government of the Church was 
achieved," remarks Solirn, by an arrangement really " in entire 
opposition to the ideas of the Reformation." 3 

" The lack of system in Luther s mode of thought is perhaps 
nowhere so apparent as in his views on the authorities and their 
demeanour towards religion." 4 The want of unity and sequence 
in his teaching becomes even more apparent when we listen to 
the very diverse opinions of Protestant scholars on the subject. 
It is no fault of the historian s if the picture presented by the 
statements of Luther and his commentators shows very blurred 

" The civil government of the Church," writes Hemrich 
Bohmer, in "Luther im Lichte cler neueren Forschung "- 
speaking from his own standpoint " in so far as it actually 
represents a government, is utterly at variance with Luther s 
own principles in matters of religion. Neither can it be brought 
into direct historical connection with the Reformation. . . . 
The so-called congregational principle is really the only one 
which agrees with Luther s religious ideal, according to which 
the decision upon all ecclesiastical matters is to be regarded as 
the right of each individual congregation. ... It is, however, 
perfectly true that the attempts to reorganise the ecclesiastical 

1 Sohm, " Kirchenrecht," I, 1892, p. 579. 

2 Ibid., p. 015, where the passages from Jonas s writings are given. 

3 Ibid., pp. 630, G18; for further details on the Consistories and 
Luther s relations to them, see our vol. v., xxx., 3 ; cp. xxxv., 2. 

4 Wilhelm Hans, a Protestant theologian, quoted in our vol. ii., 
p. 312. 


constitution on the basis of this idea were a complete failure. 
Neither at Wittenberg, nor at Allstedt, nor at Orlamiinde were 
the communities from a moral point of view sufficiently ripe." 1 

The civil government of the Church is also in disagreement 
with Luther s conception of the secular power as expressed in 
some chief passages of his work " Von welltlicher Uberkeytt," 
(1523). According to Erich Brandenburg s concise summary, 
Luther shows in this work, that " the task of the State and of 
society is entirely secular ; it is not their duty to make men 
pious. There is no such thing as a Christian State ; society and 
the State were called into being by God on account of the wicked." 2 
Brandenburg also quotes later statements made by Luther 
concerning the secular authorities, and infers, " that neither the 
civil government of the Church in the sense accepted at a later 
date, nor the quasi-episcopate of the sovereign, is really com 
patible with such views." 3 

It is true that in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John 
(15371538), in his annoyance at his unfortunate experiences of 
State encroachments, Luther declares, that " the two govern 
ments should not be intermingled to the end of the world, as 
was the case with the Jewish nation in Old Testament times, but 
must remain divided and apart, in order that the pure Gospel 
and the true faith may be preserved, for the Kingdom of Christ 
and the secular government are two very different things." 4 
He realises, however, the futility of his exhortations : " You 
will see that the devil will mingle them together again . . . the 
sword of the Spirit and the secular sword. . . . Our squires, the 
nobles and the Princes, who now go about equipped with authority 
and desire to teach the preachers what they are to preach and to 
force the people to the sacrament according to their pleasure, 
will cause us much injury ; for it is necessary to render obedience 
to the worldly authorities, hence what we wish, that you must- 
do, and thus the secular and spiritual government becomes a 
single establishment. 6 

Brandenburg, for his part, is of opinion that " the civil govern 
ment of the Church had come about in opposition to Luther s 
wishes, but had to be endured like other forms of injustice. . . . 
Luther reproached himself with strengthening the tyrants by his 
preaching, with throwing open doors and windows to them. 
But with the unworldly idealism peculiar to him, he thereupon 
replied defiantly : What do I care ? If, on account of the 
tyrants, we are to omit the teaching which is so essential a 

1 First edition, p. 127. In the second edition the passage com 
mencing with the words " The so-called " has been altered. 

2 " Luthers Aiischauung vom Staate und der Gesellschaft " (" Schrif- 
ten des Vereins fur Reformationsgesch."), 1901, p. 25. Elsewhere 
Luther speaks otherwise. We must remember that in the above 
writing he has in mind chiefly the Catholic authorities who were oppos 
ing the new Evangel. 

3 Ibid. 4 " Werke," Erl. eel., 46, p. 183. 
5 Ibid,, p. 185. 


matter, then we should have been forced long since to relinquish 
the whole Evangel. " l 

On the other hand another Protestant theologian, H. Hermelink, 
who supports the opposite view, viz. that Luther was a staunch 
upholder of the supremacy of the authorities in matters ecclesi 
astic, adduces plentiful quotations from Luther s writings in 
which the latter, even from the early days of his struggle, declares 
that the authorities have their say in spiritual matters, that it is 
their duty to provide for uniformity of teaching in each locality 
and to supervise Christian worship. He admits, however, that 
Luther set certain " bounds to the ecclesiastical rights of the 
authorities." 2 

These statements in favour of the authorities cannot be dis 
allowed. They arose partly from Luther s efforts to advance his 
party with the help of the worldly magnates, partly, as will 
appear immediately, from the material difficulties of the Lutheran 
congregations, due to the confiscation of Church property by the 
secular power. 

In any case it was unexpectedly that Luther found himself 
confronted with all the above problems. When their immediate 
solution became the most urgent task for the new faith, Luther s 
principles were still far from presenting any well-defined line of 
action. " To these, and similar questions," remarks Wilhelm 
Maurenbrecher, the Protestant historian of the Reformation, 
" Luther had given no sufficient answer ; it would even seem as 
though he had not considered them at all carefully." Among 
the questions was, according to Maurenbrecher, the funda 
mental one : " Who is to decide whether this or that person 
belongs to the congregation ? " If the congregation, where does 
the Church come in ? for, " after all, the congregation is not the 
Church." 3 The very idea of the Church had still to be deter 
mined. * 

Confiscation of Church Property. 

In the Saxon Electorate, the home of the religious innova 
tion, it had become imperatively necessary that the parishes 
which sided with Luther should be set in order by a strong 
hand, first, and principally, in the matter of the use to which 
the Church lands were to be put. In these territories, where 
the civil government of the Church first obtained, it arose 
through the robbing and plundering of the churches. 

" The parsonages all over the country lie desolate," Luther 

1 Brandenburg, p. 24, from " Werke," Erl. ed., 39, p. 257. Com 
mentary on Psalm Ixxxii. 

2 Zeitschr. fiir KG.," 29, 1908, p. 207 fl, 479 ff. 

3 " Studien und Skizzon zur Cesch. dor Reformationszeit, 1874, 
p. 344 f. 

4 On the development of Luther s idea of the Church, see vol. vi., 
xxxviii., 3 and 4. On the shaping of the relations between Church and 
State by Luther, seo vol. v., xxxv., 2. 



wrote to the Elector Johann of Saxony on October 31, 1525, 
" no one gives anything, or pays anything. . . . The 
common people pay no attention to cither preacher or 
parson, so that unless some bold step be taken and the 
pastors and preachers receive State aid from your Electoral 
Highness, there will shortly be neither parsonages, nor 
schools, nor scholars, so that the Word of God and His 
worship will perish. Your Electoral Highness must there 
fore continue to devote yourself to God s service and act as 
His faithful tool." 1 

Not long afterwards Luther strongly advises the Elector 
not only to see to the material condition of the parsonages, 
but also to examine by means of visitors the fitness of the 
parsons for their office, " in order that the people may be well 
served in the Evangel and may contribute to his [the 
parson s] support." 2 

The Order for Visitations (1527), which Luther looked 
over and which practically had his approval, was intended 
in the first place to better financially the condition of the 
parishes. Hand in hand with this, however, went super 
vision of the preaching by the State and the repression by 
force of whatever Catholic elements still survived. 3 The 
Electoral Visitors here and there found the utmost indiffer 
ence towards the new faith prevailing among the people, 
whose interests were all material. They finally proposed 
that the Elector should provide for the support of the 
parsons and assume the right of appointing and removing 
all the clergy. 

Luther himself had written as early as 1526 : " The com 
plaints of the parsons almost everywhere are beyond measure 
great. The peasants refuse to give anything at all, and there is 
such ingratitude amongst the people for the Holy Word of God 
that there can be no doubt a great judgment of God is imminent. 
... It is the fault of the authorities that the young receive no 
education and that the land is filled with wild, dissolute folk, so 
that not only God s command but our common distress compel 
us to take some measures." 4 

" Common distress " was, in point of fact, compelling recourse 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 331 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 259). 

2 On November 30, 1525, "Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 337 ( "Brief - 
wechsel," 5, p. 277 ff.). 

3 C. A. Burkhardt, "Gesch. der sachsischen Kirchen- und Schul- 
visitation von 1524 bis 1545," 1879, p. 16. 

4 To Johann, Elector of Saxony, November 22, 1526, " Werke," 
Erl. ed., 53, p. 38G " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 406). 


to the authorities who had confiscated the property of the Church ; 
i.e. the heads of the various parishes or the Electoral Court. 
The magistrates had laid hands upon the smaller benefices, 
which, as a matter of fact, were for the most part in their own 
gift or in that of the families of distinction, whilst in case of 
dispute the Elector himself had intervened. The best of the 
plunder naturally went to the Ruler of the land. 

Luther addressed the Elector as follows : " Now that an end 
lias been made of the Papal and ecclesiastical tyranny throughout 
your Highness s dominions, and now that all the religious houses 
and endowments have come into the power of your Electoral 
Highness as the supreme head, this involves the duty and burden 
of setting this matter in order, since no one else has taken it up, 
nor has a right to do so." 1 Nor was Luther backward in pointing 
out to the Court, when obliged to complain of the meagre support 
accorded to the churches, the great service he had done in en 
riching it : " Has the Prince ever suffered any loss through us ? " 
he asks a person of influence with the Elector in 1520. " Have 
we not, on the contrary, brought him much gain ? Can it be 
considered an insignificant matter, that not only your souls have 
been saved by the Evangel, but that also considerable wealth, 
in the shape of property, has begun to flow into the Prince s 
coffers, a source of revenue which is still daily on the increase ? " 

The appropriation of property by the Elector as Ruler of the 
land necessarily entailed far-reaching obligations with regard to 
the churches. 

Hence, when, on November 22, 1526, Luther represented to 
the sovereign the financial distress of the pastors, he also told 
him, that a just ruler ought to prevail upon his subjects to 
support the schools, pulpits and parsonages. 3 Johann, in his reply, 
when agreeing to intervene for the better ordering of the churches, 
likewise appeals to his rights as sovereign of the country : 
" Because we judge, and are of opinion, that it beseems us as 
Ruler to attend to them." 4 

Luther s invitation to the Princes to effect by force a reforma 
tion of the ecclesiastical order had already thrown wide open the 
doors to princely aggression. 

" The secular power," Luther had said, " has become a member 
of the Christian body, and though its work is of the body, yet it 
belongs to the spiritual estate. Therefore its work shall go 
forward without let or hindrance amongst all the members of the 
whole body." The Christian secular authority shall exercise its 
office in all freedom, if necessary even against Pope, bishop and 
priest, for ecclesiastical law is nothing but a fond invention of 
Roman presumption. 5 

1 To the Elector Johann in the letter quoted above. 

2 To Spalatin, on March 19, 1520 (" Brief wechsel," 2, p. 263). 
J " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 386 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 406). 

4 Burkhardt, " Luthers Brief wechsel," p. 114. 

5 In the work "An den christlichen Adel" of 1520, "Werke," 
Weim. ed., 6, p. 409 ; Erl. ed., 21, p. 285. Cp. our vol. ii., p. 296. 


If it was the duty of the rulers to intervene on behalf of the 
general public needs of Christendom, how much more were they 
bound to provide for the proper standing and pure doctrine of 
the pastors. It is they who must assist in bringing about a 
" real, free Council," since the Pope, whose duty it was to convene 
it, neglected to do so ; " this no one can do so effectively as the 
secular powers, particularly now that they have become fellow- 
Christians, fellow-priests and fellow-clergymen, sharing our 
power in all things ; their office and work, which they have 
from God over all men, must be allowed free course wherever 
needful and wholesome." 1 

Luther was wide-awake to the fact, and reckoned upon it, 
that the gain to be derived from the rich ecclesiastical 
property would act as a powerful incentive with those in 
power to induce them to open their lands to the innovations. 
What ruler would not be tempted by the prospect of 
coming so easily into possession of the Church s wealth, 
that fabulous patrimony accumulated from the gifts 
previous ages had made on behalf of the poor, of the service 
of the altar, of the clergy and the churches ? They heard 
Luther declare that he was going to tear Catholic hearts 
away from " monasteries and clerical mummery " ; they 
also heard him add : " When they are gone and the churches 
and convents lie desolate and forsaken, then the rulers of 
the land may do with them what they please. What care 
we for wood and stone if once we have captured the hearts ? " 2 
The taking over of the Church property by the rulers was, 
according to him, simply the just and natural result of the 
preaching of the Evangel. This was the light in which he 
wished the very unspiritual procedure of confiscation to be 

He frequently insisted very urgently that the nobles and 
unauthorised laymen were not to seize upon the church 
buildings, revenues and real property. He was aware of the 
danger of countenancing private interference, and preferred 
to see the expropriation carried out by the power of the 
State and according to law. In this wise he hoped that the 
property seized might still, to some extent, be employed in 
accordance with its original purpose, though, as was inevit 
able, he was greatly disappointed in this hope. It is spiritual 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 413-290. 

2 To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony, July, 1524, 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 255 (" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 372). 


property, he repeats frequently, bestowed for a spiritual pur 
pose, and therefore, even after the departure of its former oc 
cupant, it must be used for the salvation of souls in accordance 
with the Evangel. To the Elector Johann, for instance, he 
writes : The parsonages must be repaired out of the revenues 
of the monasteries, " because such property cannot profit 
your Electoral Higlmess s Exchequer, for it was dedicated 
to God s service and therefore must be devoted primarily 
to this object. Whatever is left after this, your Electoral 
Highness may make use of for the needs of the land, or for 
the poor." 1 

His demands were, however, very inadequately complied 
with. If Luther really anticipated their fulfilment, he was 
certainly very ignorant of the ways of the world. Who was 
to prevent the Princes from seizing upon the Church lands 
with greedy hands so soon as they stood vacant, and employ 
ing them for their own purposes, or to enrich the nobles ? 
Even where everything was done in an orderly manner, who 
could prevent ever-impecunious Sovereigns from making 
use of the revenues for State purposes and from allotting 
the first place among the " needs of the land " of which we 
just heard Luther speak, to their own everyday require 
ments ? 

Luther s subsequent experiences drew from him such words 
as the following : " This robbing of the monasteries " he wrote 
to Spalatin, who was still connected with the Court of the new 
Elector Johann (since 1525), concerning the condition of things in 
the Saxon Electorate " is a very serious matter, which worries 
me greatly. I have set my face against it for a long while past. 
Not content with this, when the Prince was stopping here 1 
actually forced my way into his chamber, in spite of the resistance 
I met with, in order to make representations to him privately." 
He goes on to complain that there \vas little hope of redress so 
long as certain selfish intrigues were being carried on in the 
vicinity of the sovereign. Indeed, he does not anticipate much 
help from this Elector Johann, because he lacks his father s 
firmness, and is much too ready to listen to anyone. " A Prince 
must know how to be angry, a King must be something of a 
tyrant ; this the world demands." As things are, however, we 
are imposed upon in all sorts of w^ays for " the sake of the spoils " ; 
" smoke, fumes and fables " are made to serve, and we do not 
even know who are at work behind the scenes ; at any rate they are 
hostile to the Evangel and were its foes even in the time of the 

1 To the Elector Johmiii, November 22, 1520, " Wcrkc," Eii. ed., 
53, p. 380 f. ( Brief wcchsel," 5, p. 400). 


pious Elector. " Now that they have enriched themselves, they 
laugh and exult over the fact that it is possible in the name of 
the Evangel to enjoy all sorts of evangelical freedom, and at the 
same time to be the Evangel s worst enemy. This is bitter to me, 
more bitter than gall." " I shall have to issue a public admonition 
to the Prince in order to insist upon some other administration 
of the religious houses ; perhaps then I shall be able to shame 
those fellows. ... I hate Satan s rage, malice and ambushes, 
everywhere, in all matters, and unceasingly, and it gives me 
pleasure to thwart him and injure him wherever I can." 1 

Thus the consequences were more serious than the ex-monk 
in his ignorance of the ways of the world had anticipated. 
" Satan," on \vhose shoulders he lays the blame, was not to be 
so easily expelled. The worst acts of violence perpetrated in 
the name of the Word of God were the result of the lust for 
wealth which he had unchained. 

" How heavily the negligence of our Court presses upon me," 
he sighs in the last years of his life. Much is undertaken pre 
sumptuously, and then, after a while, we are left stranded in the 
mire ; they do nothing themselves, and we are left to our fate. 
But I intend to pour my grievous complaints into the ears of 
Dr. Pontarms and the Prince himself as soon as I get a chance. 
I have learnt, to my great annoyance, that the nobles are govern 
ing in the Prince s name. 2 

A few days after the letter to Spalatin, quoted above, in 
another letter to him, he gives vent to his thoughts on the 
marriage questions arising within the domain of the new faith. 

Secularisation of the Matrimonial Courts. 

Against the Lawyers. 

The secularisation of the marriage courts appears as a 
very characteristic subject amongst the questions of juris 
diction arising between State and Church, side by side with 
the secularisation of Church property. The secularising 
of these courts was the logical consequence of Luther s 
secularising of matrimony, which he regarded to fore 
stall his later statements 3 " as an outward, secular matter, 
subject to the authorities, like food and clothing, house and 

1 To Spalatin at Altenburg, January 1, 1527, " Brief wechsel," 6, 
p. 2 ff. Spalatin had resigned the Court Chaplaincy on the death 
of the Elector Frederick and become pastor of Altenburg. From this 
time Luther s letters to him assume a different character, the con 
sideration for the Court and the desire to work on it through Spalatin 
being 110 longer apparent. Cp. our vol. ii., p. 23. 

2 To Amsdorf, January 13, 1543, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, 
p. 532. 

3 See below, xvii., 5, and vol. iv., xxii., 5. 


land." 1 According to the Confession of Augsburg at the very 
most it was a sacrament only in the same^ way that the 
authority of the magistrates appointed by God was a 
sacrament. 2 The codicil to the Articles of Sehmalkalden 
required, that the " magistrates shall establish special 
marriage courts," because Canon Law " contains pitfalls 
for conscience." 3 

As the Church had formerly been the sole authority 011 
questions relating to marriage, and as the custom of re 
ferring such matters to her was deeply rooted in the life of 
the German people, Luther at the outset consented to take 
this into account and to leave the decision to his preachers ; 
the result of this was, however, that he found himself over 
whelmed amidst his other labours by a mass of unpleasant 
and uncongenial work and was accordingly soon moved to 
throw the" whole burden on the State and the secular 
lawyers, though here again he met with distressing experi 

He wrote to Spalatin in 1527 : " We have been plagued 
by so many questions concerning marriage, owing to the 
connivance of the devil, that we have decided to leave this 
profane business to the profane courts. Formerly I was 
stupid enough to expect from mankind something more 
than mere humanity, and to fancy that they could be 
directed by the Evangel. Now, facts have shown that they 
despise the Evangel and insist on being compelled by the 
law and the sword." He shows himself very much annoyed 
in this letter at the position taken up by the jurists with 
their " law " concerning those marriages which took place 
contrary to the will of the parents. The lawyers of the 
Wittenberg Faculty agreed with the older Church in 
recognising the validity of such unions. Luther, on the 
other hand, ostensibly on biblical grounds, wished them to 
be held as null, because duty to the public and the respect 
due to parents required it. In practice, however, he soon 
became aware how precarious was this position. The 
Gospel teaches," he explains to Spalatin, " that the father 
must be ready to give his consent when his son asks w r hat is 
lawful, and that the son must obey his father ; on both 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 205 ; Erl. ed., 23, p. 93. " Von 
Ehesachen," 1530. 

2 " Symbol. Biicher, 10 od. Miiller-Koldo, p. 204, art. 13. 

3 Ibid., p. 343. 


sides there must be good-will; this holds good with the 
pious. But when godless parents hear that the Gospel 
confirms their authority, they become tyrannical [and 
refuse to consent to their children s marriage]. The children, 
on the other hand, learn that, according to the law of Pope 
and Emperor, they have the necessary permission, and so 
they abuse this liberty and despise their parents. Both 
sides arc in the wrong and numerous examples of the same 
abound." 1 

In the case of such dissensions between parents and 
children, he says in an instruction to Spalatin which was 
printed later, the son " must be sent to the profane, i.e. 
Imperial Courts of Justice, under which we live in the flesh, 
and thus you will be relieved of the burden." Preachers, 
according to him, as " evangelists," have nothing to do with 
legal questions, but merely with peaceable matters ; " where 
there is strife and dissension the Kaiser s tribunal [the 
secular courts] must decide. . . . Should the son get no 
redress from the secular court, then there is nothing for him 
but to submit to his father s tyranny." 2 

Naturally neither Luther nor the parties concerned found 
much satisfaction in such expedients. The handing over of 
the marriage questions to the State was to prove a source of 
endless and increasing trouble and vexation to Luther in the 
ensuing years, particularly in connection with the " secret " 
marriages just referred to. Luther even appealed from the 
then practice of the lawyers to the law of the old Roman 
Empire, which exaggerated the paternal rights to the extent 
of making the children s marriages altogether dependent on 
the will of the parents. In the letter to Spalatin, printed in 
the Wittenberg edition of Luther s German works, we find 
the following marginal note which expresses Luther s 
opinion : " The old Imperial and Christian laws decree and 
ordain that children shall marry with the knowledge, consent 
and advice of their parents, and this the natural law also 
teaches. But the Pope, like the tyrant and Antichrist he 
is, has determined to be the only judge in questions of 
marriage and has abolished the obedience due by children 
to their parents." 3 The truth is, that Canon Law, whilst 

1 On January 7, 1527, " Brief wechsel," G, p. 6. 2 Ibid pp 6 7 

"Werke," Wittenberg ed., 9, p. 244. Eiidcrs, " Brief wechsel 
.Luthers, 6, p. 8, 11. 1. 


strongly urging both sons and daughters to obey and respect 
their parents, nevertheless recognised as valid a marriage 
contract when concluded under conditions otherwise lawful, 
and this because it saw no reason for depriving the contract 
ing parties of the freedom which was theirs by the natural law. 
Luther, greatly incensed by the opposition of the lawyers, 
at length, in a sermon preached in 1544, launched forth the 
most solemn condemnation possible of the so-called secret 
unions contracted without the paternal consent. He 
declared : " I, Dr. Martinus, command in. the name of the 
Lord our God, that no one shall enter into a secret engage 
ment and then, after the event, seek the parents ratification 
. . . and, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, 
I condemn to the abyss of hell all those who assist in further 
ing such devil s work as secret engagements. Amen." 1 

In the same way he boasted to the Elector, that the 
jurists had " wanted to play havoc " with his churches 
" with their annoying, damnable suits which, however, I 
have resolved to expel from my churches as damnable and 
accursed to-day and for all eternity/ The principal motive 
for his action was the " Divine command " he had received 
" to preach the observance of the Fourth Commandment in 
these matters." 2 

What Luther, however, was most sensitive to was that 
some of the Wittenberg lawyers, conformably with the 
traditional code, declared the marriages of priests, and 
consequently his own, to be invalid in law, and the children 
of such unions to be incapable of inheriting. He keenly 
felt the blow which was thus directed against himself and 
his children. His displeasure he gave vent to in some 
drastic utterances. If what the lawyers say is correct, 
he continues in the writing above referred to addressed to 
the Elector, " then I should also be obliged to forsake the 
Evangel and crawl back into the frock [the religious habit] 
in the devil s name, by power and virtue of both ecclesiastical 
and secular law. Then Your Electoral Highness would have 
to have my head chopped off, dealing likewise with all those 
who have married nuns, as the Emperor Jovian decreed 
more than a thousand years ago " [and as the law still stood 
in the codes then in use]. 

1 " Werkc," Erl. cd., 02, p. 240. " Table-Talk." 

2 On January 18, 1545, l Brief e," ed. Do AVettc, 5, p. 716 f. 


Thoughts such as these, on the reprobation of his union 
with Bora by the law of the Church and of the Christian 
Roman Empire, stood in glaring contrast to the pleasant 
moods of domestic life to which he so gladly gave himself up. 
He sought to find solace from his public cares and conflicts 
in his family circle, and some compensation for the troubles 
which the great ones of the earth caused him in the domestic 
delights in which he would have wished all other fallen 
priests to share. He succeeded, to an extent which appeared 
by no means enviable to those who followed a different ideal, 
in forgetting his priestly state and its demands. In one of 
the letters just mentioned he writes as a father to Spalatin, 
who also had had recourse to marriage : " May you live 
happily in the Lord with your rib [i.e. your wife]. My little 
Hans sends you greetings ; he is now in the month of teeth 
ing and is beginning to lisp ; it is delightful to sec how he 
will leave no one in peace about him. My Katey also sends 
you her best wishes, above all for a little Spalatin, to teach 
you what she boasts of having learnt from her little Hans, 
i.e. the crown and joy of wedded life, which the Pope and his 
world were not worthy of." 1 

What Canon Law said of the high calling of the priest and 
religious and of the depth of the fall of those who proved 
untrue to it, no longer made the slightest impression on him. 
It would have been in vain had a St. Jerome of olden days, 
a medicTval St. Bernard or a Geiler of Kaysersberg cham 
pioned the cause of Canon Law against Luther and his nun 
in the ^glowing language they knew so well how to use. 
Luther s own words quoted above concerning the death 
penalty decreed by Jovian the Christian Emperor against 
anyone sacrilegiously violating a nun, illuminate as with a 
lightning flash the antagonism between antiquity and 
Luther s doings. 

He asserts himself proudly because he considers his 
heavenly calling to expound the new Evangel, and his 
Divine mission, had been questioned by the lawyers 
who represented the authority of the State. When, in 
defiance of their objections against the legitimacy of his 
family, he drafted his celebrated will, he was careful to 
inform them that, for its validity, he has no need of them 
or of a notary ; he was " Dr. Martinus Luther, God s Notary 
1 On January 1, 1527, " Brief wechsel," 0, p. 4. 


and Witness to His Gospel," and was " well known in 
heaven, on earth and in hell " ; that " God had entrusted 
him with the Gospel of His Dear Son and had made him 
faithful and true to it," for which reason, " in spite of the 
fury of all the devils," many " in the world regarded him as 
a teacher of truth." 1 

3. The Question of the Religious War ; Luther s Vacillating 
Attitude. The League of Schmalkalden, 1531 

After the Diet of Augsburg, Luther, as we have shown 
(vol. ii., pp. 391, 395 f .), proclaimed the war of religion much 
more openly than ever before. His writings, " Auff das 
vermcint Keiserlich Edict " and " YVidder den Meuchlcr zu 
Drcscn," bear witness to this. The proceedings taken by 
the Empire 011 the ground of the resolutions of Worms, and 
the attitude of the Catholic Princes and Estates, appeared 
to him merely a plot, a shameful artifice on the part of the 
" blood-hounds " who opposed him. 

In his writing against the Assassin, i.e. Duke George of 
Saxony, he expounds his politico-religious standpoint in a 
way which became his rule for the future. Cain and Abel, the 
devil and the righteous, stand face to face. The world 
belongs either to the devil or to the Children of God. The 
devil s realm conceals a murderer and blood-hound, Abel, 
a pious and peaceable heart." Abel stands for the Lutherans, 
Cain and the devil for the Papists. It is a " veracious 
opinion, founded on Scripture and proved by the fruits of 
the Papists, that they are ever on the watch and lie in wait 
day and night to destroy us and root us out."- "If the 
Emperor or the authorities purpose to make war on God 
[i.e. Luther s Evangel J, then no one must obey them." In 
this case everyone must resist, for it is no " disobedience, 
rebellion or contumacy to refuse to obey and assist in 
shedding innocent blood." 3 

Opposition and violent resistance to the lawful authority 
of the empire and its legitimate action is here justified by the 
argument that to fight for the Evangel is no revolt. 

1 Will of January 6, 1542, " Werke," Erl. ed., 56, p. 2 ; >! Briefe," 
ed. De Wette, 5, p. 422. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 469 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 126. Dating 
from the commencement of 1531. 

3 Ibid,, p. 447 = 111. 


The defiant resolve to proceed to any extreme regardless 
of others or of the publie weal, finds its strongest expression 
in Luther s words during and after the Diet of Augsburg : 
" Not one hair s breadth will I yield to the foe," he wrote 
from the fortress of Coburg, with a hint at the wavering 
attitude of Mclanchthon and Jonas. This it was which led 
up to the statement already quoted : "If war is to come, 
let it come." " God has delivered them up to be 
slaughtered." 1 

Luther on Armed Resistance, until 1530. 
If we glance at Luther s former attitude towards open 

resistance, we find that it would be unjust to say that he 
preferred religious war to peaceful propaganda. He per 
ceived the danger which it involved. At an earlier period 
he several times had occasion to intervene when warring 
elements threatened to estrange the German Princes. We 
find statements of his where he speaks against armed 
resistance and points out (to use his later words) what a 
" blot upon our teaching " a " breach or disturbance of the 
peace of the land would be." 2 There is no question that such 
utterances preponderate with him until 1530. From the 
very first years of his public career he was anxious to impress 
on all, particularly on his own Sovereign, that the Word 
alone must work all ; he eliminates as far as possible every 
prospect of a struggle with the Emperor or the other rulers, 
which was what the Elector really dreaded. lie also 
frequently expounds theoretically, more particularly in his 
booklet "Von welltlicher Uberkeytt " (1523), the duty of 
Christians not to resist the authorities, because the Kingdom 
of God means yielding, humility and submission ; every 
true believer must even allow himself to be " fleeced and 
oppressed " ; he must indeed confess the evangelical faith, 
but be willing to " suffer " under an authority hostile to the 
faith (cp. vol. ii., p. 229 f.). When occasion offered he was 
ready to quote numerous passages from Holy Scripture in 
order to show that violent revolt and armed intervention 
on behalf of the Gospel are forbidden, and that the German 
Princes had nothing to fear from him in this regard. 
1 See vol. ii., p. 391. 

" Werkc," Erl. od., 61, p. 332 scg. "Table-Talk." Muthesius, 

lischreden," p. 133 of the year 1540. 


None the less, his enterprise was visibly drifting towards 
the employment of force and towards war. 

How deeply he felt the premonition of civil war is plain, for 
instance, from the following : 

" There will be no lack of breaches of the peace, and ot war 
only too much," he wrote in 1528 to the Elector Johann. 1 He 
and Melanchthon together also wrote in the same strain to the 
Crown-Prince of Saxony, Johann Frederick, in 1528 ; Time 
will bring enough fighting with it which it will be impossible to 
avoid, so that we should be grateful to accept peace where we 
are able " 2 As early as 1522 he had given to the Elector Frederick 
one of his reasons for leaving the Wartburg and returning to 
Wittenberg : " I am much afraid and troubled because I am, 
alas, convinced that there will be a great revolt in the German 
lands, by which God will chastise the nation." The Evangel was 
well received by the common people, but some were desirous of 
extinguishing the light by force. And yet " not only the spiritual, 
but also the secular power, must yield to the Evangel, whether 
cheerfully or otherwise, as all the accounts contained in the 
Bible sufficiently show. ... I am only concerned lest the revolt 
should begin with the Lords, and, like a national calamity, engulf 
the priesthood." 3 

Nevertheless lie is determined to be of good cheer ; even 
should the war ensue, his conscience is " pure, guiltless and 
untroubled, whereas the consciences of the Papists are guilty, 
anxious and unclean." " Therefore let things take their course 
and do their worst, whether it be war or rebellion according as 
God s anger decrees." 4 

This gives redoubled weight to his determination to press 
forward relentlessly. " Let justice prevail even though the 
whole world should be reduced to ruin. For I say throw peace 
into the nethermost hell if it is to be purchased at the price of 
harm to the Evangel and to the faith." 5 

It has been admitted on the Protestant side that 
adhered to this view throughout his life, viz. : that his doctrine 
must be preached even though it should lead to the destruction 

i On May 8, 1528, " Werke," Erl. eel., 54, p. 5 (" Briefwechsel," 

2> On same elate, ibid., p. 6 (" Briefwechsel," ibid.). 

3 On March 7, 1522, "Werke," Erl. eel., 53, p. Ill f. ( Brief 
wechsel," 3, p. 298). 

4 In the "Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen, 1531, Werke, 
Weim. eel., 30, 3, p. 279 ; Erl. eel., 25 2 , p. 8. It is true that this and 
the following statement belong to the period subsequent to the Diet 
of Augsburg, but they also throw light on the earlier period. 

5 In a Latin memorandum which Enders with some probability 
assigns to the latter half of August, 1531, " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 76 : 
" Fiat iustitia et per eat mundus ; pacem enim ad ima tartara relegandam 
esse dico, qua; cum evangelii iactura redimitur." There are no grounds 
for doubting Luther s authorship, but the original was prot 
written in German. 


of all." 1 In confirmation of this, another passage taken from 
Luther s writings is quoted : "It has been said that if the Pope 
falls Germany will perish, be utterly wrecked and ruined ; but 
how can 1 help that ? I cannot save it ; whose fault is it ? Ah, 
they say, if Luther had not come and preached, the Papacy 
would still be on its legs and we should be at peace. I cannot 
help that." 2 

When the same author urges in Luther s defence that, " he 
was not really indifferent to the evil consequences of his actions 
in ecclesiastical and political matters," 3 we naturally ask whether 
the author of the schism did not at times feel bitterly his heavy 
responsibility for these results, and whether he should not have 
exerted himself in every possible way to ward off the " evil 
consequences." His own admissions, to be given elsewhere 
(see vol. v., xxxii.), concerning his inward struggles, disclose how 
frequently he was troubled with such reproaches and what 
difficulty he had in ridding himself of them. 

To the inflammatory invitations already given we may sub 
join a few others. 

" It were better," Luther says in his Church-postils, " that all 
the churches and foundations throughout the land were up 
rooted and burnt to powder and the sin would be less even 
though done out of mere wantonness than that a single soul 
should be seduced and corrupted by this [Papistical] error." 4 
And, further on : " Here you see why the lightning commonly 
strikes the churches rather than any other buildings, viz. : 
because God is more hostile to them than to any others, because 
in no den of robbers, no house of ill-fame is there such sin, such 
blasphemy against God, such murder of the soul and destruction 
of the Church committed as in these houses " [i.e. in the churches 
where the Catholic worship obtained]. 5 Elsewhere, at an 
earlier date he had said : " Would it be astonishing if the Princes, 
the nobles and the laity were to hit Pope, bishop, priest and 
monk on the head and drive them out of the land ? It has never 
before been heard of in Christendom, and it is abominable to 
hear now, that the Christian people should openly be com 
manded to deny the truth." 6 Besides these, we have the fiery 
words he flung among the people : " Where the ecclesiastical 
Estate does not proceed in the way of faith and charity [accord 
ing to the Evangel], my wish is not merely that my doctrine 
should interfere with the monasteries and foundations, but that 
they were reduced to one great heap of ashes." 7 In fine : "A 
grand destruction of all the monasteries and foundations would 

1 W. Walther, " Luthers Waffen," 1886, p. 158, and his " Fiir 
Luther," 1906, p. 246 ff., 278 ff. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 33, p. 606 ; Erl. ed., 48, p. 342, in the 
Exposition of the Gospel of St. John, 1530-1532. Cp. Walther, ibid. 
3 Walther, ibid., p. 170. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 222. * Ibid., p. 224. 

"Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 621 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 46, in the work 
\\idder die Bullen des Eiidchrists," 1520. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 330 in the " Kirchenpostille. 


be the best reformation, for they are of no earthly use to Christen 
dom and might well be spared. . . . What is useless and un 
necessary and yet does such untold mischief, and to boot is 
beyond reformation, had much better be exterminated." 1 The 
word here rendered as " destruction " is one of which Luther 
frequently makes use to denote violent annihilation, for instance, 
of the devastation of Jerusalem and its Temple, nor can we well 
explain it away in the above connection ; he certainly never 
pictured to himself the " grand destruction of all the monasteries 
and foundations " otherwise than as a general reduction to ruins. 
The excuse brought forward in modern times in extenuation of 
Luther is a very strange one, viz. : that, when giving vent^tp 
such expressions, he frequently added the qualifying clause "if 
the Catholics do not change their opinions," then violence will 
befall them ; hence only in the event of their final refusal to 
accept the new teaching was the destruction so vividly described 
to overtake them ! Presumably his contemporaries should have 
shown themselves grateful for this saving clause. The mitigation 
conveyed by the clause in question in reality amounted to this : 
Only if theVhole world becomes Lutheran will it be saved from 
destruction. 2 

It is psychologically worth noticing that Luther, in his zeal, 
seems never to have perceived that the argument might just as 
well be turned against himself. The Emperor and the Catholic 
powers of the Empire, with at least as much show of reason, 
might have urged as he did, that no power, without being doomed 
to " destruction " and to being " burnt to ashes," could stand 
against the Gospel. The Gospel which they defended was that 
handed down by the Church, whereas Luther s Evangel, to 
mention only one point, was novel and hitherto unheard of by 
theologians and faithful laity alike. On the one occasion when this 
thought occurred to him, he had the following excuse ready : 
We are sure of our faith, hence we may and must demand that 
everything yield to it ; the Emperor and his party on the other 
hand have no such assurance and can never reach it. " We 
know that the Emperor is not and cannot be certain of it, because 
we know that he errs and seeks to oppose the Evangel. W T e aro 
not obliged to believe that he is certain because he does not act 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 121, " Kirchenpostille." 

2 An earlier explanation of Luther s as to the way in which ho 
understood destruction only shows that then, in 1522, he was averse 
to the carrying out of such a project : " This destruction and annihila 
tion I would not have understood as meaning the use of violence and 
the sword. For they are not worthy of such chastisement nor would 
anything be gained by it but as Daniel viii. teaches : Antichrist 
shall be destroyed without hands, when everyone teaches, speaks and 
holds God s Word against him. . . . This is a true Christian destruc 
tion." "Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 140; Erl. ed., 28, p. 178. 
Even H. Preuss recognises in his " Die Vorstellungen vom Antichrist," 
p. 115, that, in Luther s replies to Alveld and in his epitome of Silvester 
Prierias, " there smoulders such anger as shows that recourse to arms 
was imminent." Cp. passages from Luther s writings referred to in 
vol. ii., p. 190, n. 3, 


in accordance with God s Word, whereas we on the other hand 
do ; for it is his bounden duty to recognise God s Word ! " 
Otherwise, Luther adds, " every murderer and adulterer might 
also plead : I am right, therefore you must approve my act 
because I am certain I am in the right. " l " It was with argu 
ments like these that the Protestant Estates were to justify 
their overthrow of the ancient faith and worship, and to demon 
strate the wickedness of the Emperor s efforts to preserve the 
faith and worship of his fathers." 2 

Of the various memoranda which Luther had to draw up 
for his Sovereign on the question of armed resistance, that 
of February 8, 1523, prepared for the Elector Frederick, 
must be mentioned first. 3 In this the Prince s attention is 
drawn to the fact, that publicly he had hitherto preserved 
an attitude of neutrality concerning religious questions, and 
had merely given out that, as a layman, he was waiting for 
the triumph of the truth. Hence it was necessary that he 
should declare himself for the justice of Luther s cause if 
he intended to abandon his attitude of submission to the 
Imperial authority. In that case he might have recourse 
to arms in the character of a stranger who comes to the 
rescue, but not as a sovereign of the Empire. Further, " he 
must do this only at the call of a singular spirit and faith, 
short of which he must give way to the sword of the higher 
power and die with his Christians." 4 Should he, however, be 
attacked, not by the Emperor, but by the Catholic Princes, 
then, after first attempting to bring about peace, he must 
repel force by force. 

When, in 1528, the false reports were circulated, of which 
we hear in the history of the Pack negotiation, to wit, that 
the Catholic Princes of the Empire were on the point of fall 
ing upon the Protesters, Luther sent a letter to Johann, his 

"Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 180 (" Brief wechsel," 8, p. 105), in a 
" Memorandum on the abolition of the Mass and monastic life, etc.," 
dated July 13, and assigned by Enders to the year 1530. 

2 Janssen, "Hist, of the German People" (Eng. trans.), 5, p. 288. 

" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 76 seq., where will be found the opinions 
of Link, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Amsdorf, given at the same 
time as to " whether a ruler may protect his subjects against religious 
persecution by the Emperor or other Princes by engaging in war ? " 
Cp. the printed form of Luther s opinion given in G. Berbig, " Quellen 
und Darstellungen aus der Gesch. des Reformationszeitalters," 
Hft. 5, Leipzig, 1908, p. 98 f. 

" (Oportet) ut id vocante aliquo singulari spiritu et fide, facial ; 
alias omnino cedere debet et ipse gladio superiori et cum christianis , 
quos patitur, mori." Instead of " patitur," as Enders has it, Berbig has 
"fatetur," which is certainly better. 


Elector, regarding the question of law. What was to be 
done if the Catholic powers, without the authorisation of 
the Emperor, attacked the Lutheran party ? Luther s 
verdict was that such an act on the part of " scoundrel- 
princes " must be resisted by force of arms " as a real 
revolt and conspiracy against the Empire and His Imperial 
Majesty," but that " to take the offensive and anticipate 
such an action on the part of the Princes was in no wise to 
be counselled." 1 

On this occasion he manifested serious apprehension of 
the mischief which might be caused by a precipitate armed 
attack on the part of his princely patrons. It was a very 
different matter to look forward to a mere possibility of war 
and to find himself directly confronted with an outbreak of 
hostilities. " May God preserve us from such a horror ! 
This would indeed be to fish with a draw-net and to take 
might for right. No greater blame could attach to the 
Evangel, for this w^ould be no Peasant Rising but a Rising 
of the Princes, which would destroy Germany utterly to the 
joy of Satan." 2 

The above memorandum had dealt with the question of 
an attack by the Princes of the Empire. But what was to be 
done if the Emperor himself intervened ? 

The Lutheran Princes and Estates were anxious to 
exercise the utmost caution and restraint with -regard to 
the Emperor personally, and in this Luther agreed with 
them. At Spires, in 1520, they had decided to behave " in 
such a way as to be able to answer for it before God and the 
Emperor," which, however, did not prevent them from 
establishing the " evangelical " worship in contravention of 
the decrees of Worms. It was hoped that the Emperor, 
hampered by his foreign policy, would not take up arms. 
When, accordingly, the protesting Princes, at the time of 
the Pack business, commenced warlike preparations against 
the Catholic party in the Empire, they solemnly declared at 
Rotach, in June, 1528, that they " exceptcd " the Emperor. 
In the same way they desired that their action at Spires in 
1529, where they "protested" against the Emperor, should 
be looked upon as an appeal to the Emperor " better in- 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 54, pp. 1 and 55, p. 264 (" Briefwechsel," 6, p. 
231) (March 28, 1528). 

2 To Chancellor Brack, March 28, 1528, " Werke," Erl. ed., 55, 
p. 266 f. (" Briefwechsel," 6, p. 231). 



structed." When the Emperor, on account of the protest, 
began to take a serious view of the matter, any scruples 
which the sovereigns of Hesse and the Saxon Electorate 
may have felt concerning the employment of armed resist 
ance against him soon evaporated. In Saxony it was held 
that a closer alliance of the Princes favourable to the innova 
tions ought not to be " shorn of its meaning and value " by 
this " exemption of the Emperor " ; the exemption, it was 
argued, was only of the person of the Emperor, not of his 
mandataries. A Saxon memorandum at the end of July, 
1529, practically made an end of the exemption ; " resist 
ance, even to the Emperor, the most dangerous of our foes, 
belongs to the natural law of humanity." 1 This was the 
opinion of the Margrave of Brandenburg, and even more 
so of the Landgrave of Hesse. At Nuremberg, however 
Lazarus Spengler sought to persuade the Council to negative 
this resolution ; he was still entirely under the influence of 
Luther s earlier teaching, that the spirit must be ready to 
endure and suffer under the secular authorities. 

Luther, in spite of his frequent threats and urgings, was 
not immediately to be induced to make common cause with 
the politicians. In January, 1530, Johann Brenz penned a 
memorandum in which, in terms of the utmost decision, he 
denies the lawfulness of resisting the Emperor, whereas on 
Christmas Day, 1529, in a similar memorandum requested of 
him by the Elector, Luther expresses himself most ambigu 
ously. He, indeed, just hints at the unlawfulness of such 
resistance, but qualifies this admission by such words as the 
following : There must be no resistance unless actual 
violence is done, or dire necessity compels " ; " without a 
Council and without a hearing " there must be no war 
against the Emperor ; before this, however, much water is 
likely to flow under the bridge, and God may easily find 
means of establishing peace ; " hence my opinion is that 
the project of taking the field should be abandoned for the 
nonce, unless further cause or necessity should arise." 2 

1 v. Schubert, " Beitrage zur Gesch. tier evangel. Bekenntnis- und 
Biindnisbildung, 1529-1530," " Zeitschr. fur KG.," 29, 1908, p. 273 f., 
an article giving interesting details concerning the earlier history of 
the League of Schmalkalden. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 56, p. xxiii., and, still better, " Briefe," ed. 
Do Wette (Seidemami), (>, p. 105 (" Briefwechsel," 7, p. 192). Cp 
Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 647 f. 


In a letter to George, Margrave of Brandenburg, written 
on March 6, 1530, with the object of winning him over to 
the war party, Philip of Hesse declared that he had seen 
" in Luther s own writings to the Elector, that he sanctioned 
the latter s resisting the Emperor." This probably refers 
to the above memorandum which lies to-day in the Hessian 
archives at Marburg, the original of which seems to have 
been submitted to Philip ; it may, however, have been some 
other letter since lost, or possibly the 1528 memorandum 
in which Luther speaks of the lawfulness of repelling the 
anticipated attack of the Catholic Princes. 1 

To take up arms in the cause of the Evangel was certainly 
not in accordance with Luther s previous teaching, however 
much he may himself have occasionally disregarded it. 
Owing to a certain mystical confidence in his cause, he 
could not bring himself to believe that things would ever 
come to be settled by force of arms. The Elector Johann, 
unlike Philip of Hesse, again began to hesitate. On January 
27, 1530, he instructed the Wittenberg Faculty to let him 
have, within three weeks, the views of its lawyers. These 
counsellors declared in favour of the lawfulness of such a 
war against the Emperor, basing their view on two considera 
tions, viz. that as an appeal had been made to a Council the 
Emperor could not in the meantime insist upon submission 
in matters of religion, and that, on his election at Frankfurt, 
it had been agreed that all the Princes and Estates should 
retain their customary rights. In spite of this, the lawyers 
consulted were not in favour of having forthwith recourse to 
open resistance, but suggested the exercise of patience and 
restraint. 2 Luther and Melanchthon replied only on March 
G, 1530. What strikes one in Luther s reply is that " he 
has nothing personal to say on the relations between 
Emperor and Prince ; this was a serious omission. AH 
he sees is the individual Christian in this case the sovereign 
and his fidelity to the faith. . . . He is still unable to 
believe in a coming disaster, for this his God will surely not 
permit." 3 

His categorical declaration, in the memorandum of March 
30, 1530, against the lawfulness of resistance, is of greater 

1 v. Schubert, ibid., p. 306 f. 

2 Cp. Melanchthon in the letter to Bugenhagen, Enders, " Luthers 
Brief wechsel," 7, p. 248. 3 v. Schubert, ibid., p. 313. 


importance, for it is the last of the kind. After this the 
change already foreseen was to take place. 

With an express appeal to his three advisers, Jonas, 
Bugenhagen and Melanchthon, Luther explains to the 
Elector, 1 that armed resistance " can in no way be reconciled 
with Scripture." Quite candidly he lays stress on the un 
favourable prospects of resistance and the evil consequences 
which must attend success. Having taken the step, we 
should, he says, " be forced to go further, to drive away the 
Emperor and make ourselves Emperor." " In the con 
fusion and tumult which would ensue everyone would want 
to be Emperor, and what horrible bloodshed and misery 
would that not cause." 2 

In principle, it will be observed, the letter left open a 
loophole in the event of a more favourable condition of the 
Protestant cause supervening, i.e. should it be possible to 
arrive at the desired result by some quieter and safer means, 
and without deposing the Emperor. None the less note 
worthy are, however, the biblical utterances to which 
Luther again returns : "A Christian ought to be ready to 
suffer violence and injustice, more particularly from his own 
ruler," otherwise " there would be no authority or obedience 
left in the world." He would fain uphold, against all law, 
" whether secular or Popish," the truth, that " authority is 
of Divine institution." Hence the Princes must quietly 
submit to all the Emperor does ; " Each one must answer 
for himself and maintain his belief at the risk of life and limb, 
and not drag the Princes with him into danger." " The 
matter must be committed to God." Hence the memo 
randum culminates in the exhortation to sacrifice " life and 
limb," i.e. to endure martyrdom. 3 This memorandum of 
Luther s was kept secret. At any rate the apparently 
heroic renunciation of all recourse to arms, together with the 
reference reminiscent of his earlier mysticism to the 
Christian s vocation to suffer violence and injustice, make 
of this memorandum a remarkable document not to be 
matched by any other writing of Luther at that time. 
Though there is little doubt that the sight of the com- 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 138 ff. (" Briefwechsel," 7, p. 239). 

2 Ibid., p. 142. 

3 Ibid., p. 140 f. On the memorandum destined to become famous, 
cp. O. Clemen s article in " Theolog. Studien und Kritiken." 1909, 
p. 471 fi. 


paratively helpless and critical position of the new party 
had its effect here, yet, beyond this, there is a psychological 
connection between the standpoint voiced in the memo 
randum and Luther s attitude after the inward change Avhich 
occurred in him whilst yet a monk. His perfectly just 
injunction not to withstand the Emperor, he rests partly on 
the mystic theories he had imbibed at that time, partly on 
his early erroneous views concerning the rights of the 
authorities as guardians of outward, public order. In his 
enthusiasm for his cause he clings to that presumptuous 
confidence in a special Divine guidance, which had inspired 
him from the beginning of his career. The call of a 
singular spirit and faith," which he considered necessary in 
the case of the Elector Frederick (sec above, p. 48), he 
hears quite clearly within himself, though as yet this call 
does not urge him to advocate armed resistance to the 
Emperor, but merely inspires him blindly to conlide in 
his cause and to exhort others to " martyrdom." 

Simultaneously Melanchthoii sent to the Elector a memo 
randum of his own, which, apart from being clearer in 
language and thought, closely resembles Luther s and 
betrays the same deficiencies. 1 

The Change of 1530 ; Influence of the Court*. 

In that same year, 1530, after his return to Wittenberg 
from the Coburg on the termination of the Diet of Augsburg, 
a notable change took place in Luther s public attitude 
towards the question of the employment of force. This 
change we can follow step by step. 

The fact that the lawyers attached to the Court had, in 
view of the circumstances, altered their minds, weighed 
strongly with Luther. Confronted with the measures of 
retaliation announced by the Diet, and more hopeful regard 
ing the prospects of resistance now that the Protesters were 
joining forces, the councillors of the Saxon Electorate, with 
Chancellor Brack at their head, were inclined to the opinion 
that whatever sentences the Reichsgericht might pronounce 
in virtue of the Imperial edict of Augsburg might safely be 
disregarded, which, of course, was tantamount to a com 
mencement of resistance. They were very anxious concern 
ing the consequences of the decrees of Augsburg, as these 
1 Cp. " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 20. 


involved the restitution of all the property and rights of the 
Chureh, which had been appropriated by the secular power 
in the name of religion. Johann, Elector of Saxony, for a 
while continued to regard resistance as unlawful. On 
reaching Nuremberg, on his return journey from Augsburg, 
lie said to Luther s friend there, Wenceslaus Link : " Should 
one of my neighbours, or anyone else, attack me on account 
of the Evangel, I should resist him with all the force at my 
command, but should the Emperor come and attack me, he 
is my liege lord and I must yield to him, and what were more 
honourable than to be exterminated on account of the Word 
of God ? 51 Gradually, however, he was brought over to 
the new standpoint of his councillors. The example of the 
Landgrave of Hesse, who belonged to the war party and 
was very hopeful of the results of a league, had great weight 
with him, and likewise his determination not to surrender 
to the executors of the Imperial edict the Church property 
which had been confiscated. The innovations which, in the 
beginning, had seemed a work of high-minded idealists, were 
now pushed forward by many of the Princes, for motives of 
the very lowest, viz. to avoid making restitution of property 
which had been unlawfully distrained. On unevangelical 
motives such as these it was that the theory of submission to 
the secular power, in particular to the Emperor, announced 
by Luther in such grandiloquent language, was to suffer 

Philip of Hesse, who was aware of the weak points in 
Luther s previous declarations on the subject, was the first 
to attempt to bring about a change in his views. 

He entered into communication with Luther in October, 1530, 
and sent him a " writing," together with a " Christian admoni 
tion," to encourage him and his theologians, in whom, during 
the Diet, he thought he had detected a certain tendency to waver. 
Luther replied, 011 October 15, in a very devout letter, assuring 
the Landgrave that he had " received both the writing and the 
admonition with pleasure and gladness." " I beg to thank 
Your Highness for your good and earnest counsel " ; he and his, 
as time went on, were " even less disposed to yield " and reckoned 
on the help of God. 2 

Philip, in his next letter a week later, came at once to the 
crucial point, the question of resistance. He reminded Luther 
of the memorandum in which he had said, they must indeed not 

1 Kostlin-Kawerau , 2, p. 249. 

2 " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 284. 


" commence the war, but that if they were attacked they might 
defend themselves" (p. 50 f.). Philip, without further ado, 
explains his plans against the Emperor. The Emperor, he says 
with perfect frankness, "took the oath to his Princes at his election, 
just as much as they did to him. . . . Hence, if the Emperor 
does not keep his oath to us, he reduces himself to the^rank of 
any other man, and must no longer be regarded as a real Emperor, 
but as a mere breaker of the peace." The " most important of 
the Electors and Estates " had not agreed to the Reichstags- 
abschied. Hence there was hope of triumphing over the 
Emperor. In his letter to Luther, he even makes use of com 
parisons from the Bible, just as Luther himself was in the habit of 
doing, and this he did again at a later date when seeking Luther s 
sanction for his bigamy. " God in the Old Testament did not 
forsake His people or allow the country to perish which trusted 
in Him." He had come to the aid of the Bohemians and of 
" many other too, against Emperors and such-like, who treated 
their subjects with unjust violence." This being so, he requests 
Luther for his " advice and opinion " whether force may not be 
used, seeing that " His Majesty is determined to re-establish the 
devil s doctrine." 1 

Luther now saw himself obliged openly to avow his standpoint, 
all the more as a similar request had reached him from the 
Elector, in this case possibly a verbal one. He left the Landgrave 
to wait and replied first to the Elector, though only by word of 
mouth, so as not to commit himself irretrievably on so delicate a 
matter. What his reply exactly was is not known. At the end 
of October he had to go to Torgau for a conference on the subject 
with the Elector s legal advisers and possibly those of other 
Princes. Melanchthon and Jonas accompanied him, and the 
negotiations were protracted and lively. 2 

During these negotiations Luther replied from Torgau, on 
October 28, to the letter from the Landgrave referred to above, 
though in general and evasive terms. He says, he hopes no 
blood will be shed, but, in the event of things going so far, he had 
told the Elector his opinion on resistance, and of this the Land 
grave would hear in due season ; that it would be dangerous for 
him, as an ecclesiastic, to put this into writing, for many reasons. 3 
Hence for the nonce he was determined to express himself only 
verbally on this tiresome question. 

In what direction his thoughts were then turning may be 
gathered from what he says to the Landgrave in the same letter 
concerning his writings ; the latter had asked him, he says, for 
a controversial booklet, " as a consolation for the weak " ; he 
intended " in any case to publish a booklet shortly . . . ad- 

1 Reprinted by Enders in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 8, p. 
Written on October 21, 1530. 

2 Luther to Lazarus Spengler, February 15, 1531, " Werke," Erl. 
ed., 54, p. 213 ("Brief wechsel," 8. p. 361) : "it happened that they 
disputed sharply with us at Torgau." 

3 " Briefwec hsel," 8, p. 295. 


monishing all consciences, that no subject was bound to render 
obedience should His Imperial Majesty persist " ; and in which 
he will prove that the Emperor s demands are " blasphemous, 
murderous and diabolical " still, the booklet was not to be 
termed " seditious." He here is referring either to the " Auff das 
vermeint Edict" or to the " Warnunge." We have already 
spoken of the revolutionary character of the language he used 
in these tracts published in the early part of 1531, and, subse 
quently, in the reply " Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen." 1 What 
he was there to advocate goes far beyond the limits of mere 
passive resistance. 

He was at first unwilling to declare his views at Torgau. 
Not to contradict what he had previously said, he protested 
that the question did not concern him, since, as a theologian, 
his business was to teach Christ only. As regards secular 
matters, he could only counsel compliance with the law and, 
on the matter of forcible resistance to the Emperor, that any 
action taken- should be conformable to the " written laws." 
" But what these laws w r ere he neither knew nor cared." 2 

The assembled lawyers were, how-ever, loath to leave 
Torgau without having reached an understanding, and sub 
mitted another statement to Luther and his colleagues, 
requesting their opinion on it. In this document they had 
sought to prove, from sources almost exclusively canonical, 
that it was lawful to resist the Emperor by force, because 
" he proceeds and acts contrary to law%" not being a judge 
in matters of religion, and that, even if he were such a judge, 
he had no right to do anything on account of the appeal to a 
Council. They urged that it was necessary to " obey God and 
evangelical truth rather than men," and that the Emperor 
was " no more than a private individual so far as the cogni 
tion and statution of this matter went . . . nor does the 
c execution come within his province." For the sake of the 
salvation of souls the Emperor was not to be regarded as 
"judge in the matter of our faith," for his "injustice is 
undeniable, manifest, patent and notorious, yea, more than 
notorious." 3 

The councillors chose to deal with the matter chiefly from 
the point of view of canon law, as is shown by their mis 
quotations from such well-known canonists as Panormitanus, 

1 See vol. ii., p. 391 ff. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 64, p. 265. 
3 Ibid., p. 266 ff. (" Brief wochsel," 8, p. 296, dated " end of October, 


Innocent IV., Felinus, Baldus de Ubaldis and the Archi- 
diaconus (Baisius). 1 In spite of this they calmly assumed 
the truth of the proposition, condemned m canon law, ol 
the subordination of Pope to Council and of the right of 
appealing from Pope to Council. They took it for granted 
that Luther s doctrines had not yet been finally rejected by 
the Church, and, in contradiction with actual fact, declared 
that the Augsburg Reichstagsabschied "admitted and 
allowed" that Luther s doctrines, seeing that they were 
supposed to have been condemned by previous Councils, 
should come up for discussion at the next. As a matter of 
fact the Reichstagsabschied contained nothing of the sor 
" concerning doctrines of faith."- 

This document was submitted to the theologians bel 
they left Torgau, and their embarrassment was reflected in 
their written reply. Luther agreed with his friends that the 
only way out of the difficulty was to put the whole thing on 
the shoulders of the lawyers. He and his party declared 
that they stood altogether outside the question, since the 
councillors had already decided independently of them in 
favour of armed resistance, on the ground of the secular, 
Imperial laws. As for the reasons alleged from canon law, 
he refused to take them into consideration. Later on he was 
glad to be able to appeal to this subterfuge, and declared 
that he " had given no counsel. " J 

At this time, however, Luther, Melanchthon and Jonas 
put their signatures to a memorandum in which they sought 
to protect themselves by certain assurances which make a 
painful impression on the reader. 

It was true that hitherto they had taught, so they say, " that 
the [secular] authorities must on no account be resisted, 
but they had been unaware " that the authorities own laws, 
which we have always taught must be diligently obeyed, sanc 
tioned this." They had also taught, " that the secular laws 
must be allowed to take their own course, because the bospeJ 
teaches nothing against the worldly law." " Accordingly, now 
that the doctors and experts in the law have proved that 
present case is such that it is lawful to resist the authorities, we, 
for our part, " cannot disprove this from Scripture, when s 
defence is called for, even though it should be against the Empei 
himself." They then come to the question of arming. This they 

1 Cp. Enders " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 299 f. 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 249. 

3 " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 344. See below, p. 00. 


declare to be distinctly practical and advisable, especially as 
" any day other causes may arise where it would be essential to 
be ready to defend oneself, not merely from worldly motives, 
but from duty and constraint of conscience." It was necessary 
" to be ready to encounter a power which might suddenly 
arise." 1 

The Landgrave of Hesse was then making great preparations 
for war, with an eye on Wiirtemberg, where, as he admitted 
publicly, he wished forcibly to re-instate Duke Ulrich, a friend to 
the religious innovations. 

The theologians of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, unlike 
those of Wittenberg, were opposed to resistance. They replied 
then, or somewhat later, concerning the views put forward by 
the lawyers, that it was a question of the supreme secular Majesty, 
not of a judge who was subservient to a higher secular sword, 
hence that the lawyers suppositions could not stand. 2 Little 
heed was however paid to their objection. On the other hand 
the proposal made by the legal consulters, that further repre 
sentations should be made to the Emperor regarding the execution 
of the Reichstagsabschied, was described by the theologians as 
"not expedient," though it might be further discussed at the 
-Nuremberg Conference on November 11 (Martinmas). 3 

Instead, it was for November 1.3 that a summons, dis- 
patchcd by Saxony on October 31, invited a conference to 
meet at Nuremberg to discuss the matter, and take the 
steps which eventually led to the formation of the defensive 
League of Schmalkalden. At first it was proposed, that, after 
the Nuremberg conference, another should be held at Schmal 
kalden on November 28, though as a matter of fact the only 
meeting held commenced at Schmalkalden on December 22. 

Only now did it become apparent that Luther and his 
theologians had, at least in the opinion of the Saxon 
politicians, expressed themselves privately much more 
openly in favour of resistance than would appear from the 
above memorandum. The envoys from the Saxon Electorate 
appealed with great emphasis to the opinion of the Witten 
berg divines, in order to show the lawfulness of the plan 
of armed resistance and the expediency of the proposed 
League. Armed with this authority they openly " defied 
our ministers," wrote Lazarus Spengler of Nuremberg, to 
Veit Dietrich on February 20, 1531. Spengler, like^ thc 

l o<S[ iefe " ed De Wette P- 225 Enders ("Briefwechsel," 
8, p. 298) gave reasons for dating it at the " end of October 1530 " 
Kostlm-Kawerau, 2, p. 249. 

3 o eX .V n ? nders > " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 296 f. For above date see 
also 0. Winekelmann, " Der Schmalkaldische Bund, 1530-1532 imd 
der JNurnberger Religionsfriede," 1892, p. 271. 


Nuremberg Councillors and those of Brandenburg, was 
opposed to resistance and to the League. He was surprised 
that " Dr. Martin should so contradict himself/ 1 The fact 
is that he was the only person to whom Luther s previous 
memorandum of March, 1530, had been communicated. 2 

The Nuremberg magistrates appealed, among other 
reasons, to the clear testimony of Scripture which did not 
sanction such proceedings against the supreme secular 
authority. They feared the consequences of a religious war 
for Germany, just as Luther himself had formerly done, but, 
in spite of their adherence to the new faith, they were more 
frank and courageous in their effort to avert it than he on 
whose shoulders the chief responsibility in the war was to 


One sentence of Melanchthon s, written in those eventful 
days, singularly misrepresents the true position of affairs. 
To his friend Camerarius, on January 1, 1 531 , he says : " We 
discountenance all arming." 3 

Melanchthon also writes : We are now consulted less 
frequently than heretofore as to the lawfulness of resist 
ance," and he repeats much the same thing on February 15, 
1531 : " On the matter of the League no one now questions 
either Luther or myself." 4 If we can here detect a faint note 
of wonder and regret, we may assuredly ask whether the 
very behaviour of the theologians at Torgau was not the 
reason of their advice being at a discount ; their dissimula 
tion and ambiguity were not of a nature to inspire the 
lawyers and statesmen with much respect. 

It was some time before this vacillation in official, written 
statements came to an end. Some more instances of it are 
to be met with in the epistolary communications between 
Luther and the town of Nuremberg, which was opposed to 
the Schmalkalden tendencies. 

Prior to November 20, 1530, the Elector of Saxony had 
addressed himself to the magistrates of Nuremberg with the 
request that " they would make preparations for resisting 
the unjust and violent measures of the Emperor." Of this 
Veit Dietrich informed Luther from Nuremberg on that day, 

1 Enders, " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 298, from M. M. Mayer, " Spen- 
gleriaua," 1830, p. 78. 

2 Cp. " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 22 ; Mayor, ibid., p. / 3. 

3 " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 4(ii). 4 Ibid., p. 471. 


tickling that the Elector had made a reference to an approval 
of the measures of defence secured from his " Councillors 
and Doctors," but had said nothing of the theologians. 1 
News was, however, subsequently received in Nuremberg 
that the Saxon envoys present at Schmalkalden had boasted 
of the support of Luther and his friends. 

It was in consequence of this that the Nuremberg preacher, 
Wenceslaus Link, enquired of Luther in the beginning of 
January, 1531, or possibly earlier, whether the news which 
had reached Nuremberg by letter was true, viz. that " they 
had expressed the opinion that resistance might be employed 
against the Emperor." 

Without delay, on January 15, Luther assured him : " We 
have by no means given such a counsel " (" nullo modo 
consuluimus "). 2 

By way of further explanation he adds : " When some said 
openly that it was not necessary to consult the theologians at 
all, or to trouble about them, and that the matter concerned 
only the lawyers who had decided in favour of its lawfulness, I 
for my part declared : I view the matter as a theologian, but if 
the lawyers can prove its permissibility from their laws, I see no 
reason why they should not use their laws ; that is altogether 
their business. If the Emperor by virtue of his laws determines 
the permissibility of resistance in such a case, then let him bear 
the consequences of his law ; I, however, pronounce no opinion 
or judgment on this law, but I stick to my theology." It is thus 
that he expresses himself concerning the argument which the 
lawyers had, as a matter of fact, drawn almost exclusively from 
canon law, the texts of which they misread. 

He then puts forward his own theory in favour of the belligerent 
nobles of his party, according to which a ruler, when he acts as a 
politician, is not acting as a Christian ("non agit ut christianus"), as 
though his conscience as a sovereign could be kept distinct from 
his conscience as a Christian. " A Christian is neither Prince nor 
commoner nor anything whatever in the personal world. Hence 
whether resistance is permissible to a ruler as ruler, let them 
settle according to their own judgment and conscience. To a 
Christian nothing [of that sort] is lawful, for he is dead to the 

" The explanations [Luther s] have proceeded thus far," he 
concludes this strange justification, " and this much you may 
tell Lazarus [Spengler, the clerk to the Nuremberg Council] 
concerning my views. I see clearly, however, that, even should 
we oppose their project, they are nevertheless resolved to offer 
resistance and not to draw back, so full are they of their own 
ideas ; I preach in vain that God will come to our assistance, 

1 Eiiders, 8, p. 322. 2 Brief wechsel," 8, p. 344. 


and that no resistance will be required. God s help is indeed 
visible in this, that the Diet has led to no result, and that our 
foes have hitherto taken no steps. God will continue to afford 
us His help ; but not everyone has faith. I console myself with 
this thought : since the Princes are determined not to accept our 
advice, they sin less, and act with greater interior assurance, by 
proceeding in accordance with the secular law, than were they 
to act altogether against their conscience and directly contrary 
to Holy Scripture. It is true they do not wit that they are acting- 
contrary to Scripture, though they are not transgressing the civil 
law. Therefore I let them have their way, I am not concerned. 
He thus disclaimed all responsibility, and he did so with all the 
more confidence by reason of his sermons to the people, where 
he continued to speak as before of the love of peace which 
actuated him, ever with the words on his lips : "By the Word 
alone." " Christ," he exclaims, " will not suffer us to hurt Pope 
or rebel by so much as a hair." 1 

It was easy to foresee that after such replies from Luther, 
Spengler and the magistrates of Nuremberg would not be pleased 
with him. Possibly Link had doubts about making known at 
Nuremberg a writing which was more in the nature of an excuse 
than a reply, since, on such a burning question which involved 
the future of Germany, a more reliable decision might reason 
ably have been looked for. On February 20, fresh enquiries and 
complaints concerning the news which had come to Nuremberg 
of Luther s approval of organised resistance, reached Veit 
Dietrich, from the Council clerk, Spengler, and were duly trans 
mitted to Luther (see above, p. 58 f.). Luther now thought it 
advisable, on account of the charge of having retracted his 
previous opinion, to justify himself to Spengler and the magis 
trates. In his written reply of February 15, he assured the clerk, 
that he " was not conscious of such a retractation." For, to the 
antecedent, he still adhered as before, viz. that it was necessary 
to obey the Emperor and to keep his laws. As for the conclusion, 
that the Emperor decrees that in such a case he may be resisted, 
this, he says, ". was an inference of the jurists, not of our own ; 
should they bring forward a proof in support of this conclusion 
which as yet they have not done ( probation em exspectamus, 
quarn non videmus ) we shall be forced to admit that the 
Emperor has renounced his rights in favour of a political and 
Imperial law which supersedes the natural law." Of the Divine 
law and of the Bible teaching, which Luther had formerly advo 
cated with so much warmth, we find here no mention. 2 

The scruples of the magistrates of Nuremberg were naturally 
not set at rest by such answers, but continued as strong as 


1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 4 2 , p. 200, in the " Hauspostille," Second 
Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany (c. 1532). 

2 To Lazarus Spengler, " Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 213 (" Brief- 
wechsel," 8, p. 361). Cp. Ludw. Cardauns, "Die Lehre vom \V/ider- 
stancle des Volks im Luthertum und im Calvinismus des 16. Jahr- 
hunderts, Diss.," 1903, pp. 6-18. 


After the League had already been entered into, an unknown 
Nuremberg councillor of Lutheran sympathies, wrote again to 
the highest theological authority in Wittenberg for information 
as to its legality. In his reply Luther again threw off all responsi 
bility, referring him, even more categorically than before, to the 
politicians : " They must take it upon their own conscience and 
see whether they are in the right. ... If they have right on 
their side, then the League is well justified." Personally he pre 
ferred to refrain from pronouncing any opinion, and this on 
religious grounds, because such leagues were frequently entered 
into " in reliance on human aid," and had also been censured by 
the Prophets of the Old Covenant. Had he chosen, the distin 
guished Nuremberger might have taken these words as equivalent 
to a doubt as to the moral character of the League of Schmal- 
kalden. Furthermore, Luther adds : "A good undertaking and 
a righteous one " must, in order to succeed, rely on God rather 
than on men. " What is undertaken in real confidence in God, 
ends well, even though it should be mistaken and sinful," and 
the contrary likewise holds good ; for God is jealous of His 
honour even in our acts. l 

The citizens of Nuremberg had, in the meantime, on 
February 19, sent to the Saxon envoys their written refusal 
to join the League of Schmalkalden. The magistrates 
therein declared that they were still convinced (as Luther 
had been formerly) that resistance to the Emperor was 
forbidden by Holy Writ, and that the reasons to the contrary 
advanced by the learned men of Saxony were insufficient. 2 
George, Elector of the Franconian part of Brandenburg, 
who was otherwise one of the most zealous supporters of the 
innovations, also refused to join the League. 

The memorandum in which Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen 
and Mclanchthon had declared, in March, 1530, that the 
employment of force in defence of the Gospel " could not in 
any way be reconciled with Scripture" (above, p. 51 f.) was 
kept a secret. Not even Melanchthon himself was per 
mitted to send it to his friend Camerarius, though he 
promised to show it him on a visit. 3 Myconius, however, 
sent it from Gotha confidentially to Lang at Erfurt, on 
September 19, 1530, and wrote at the same time : "I am 
sending you the opinion of Luther and Philip, but on 
condition that you show it to no one. For it is not good 

1 To a Nuremberg burgher, March 18, 1531, " Werke," Erl. eel 
o4, p. 221 (" Brief wechsel," 8, p. 378). 

2 Winckelmann, " Der Sehmalkaldische Bund," p. 91. Cp. Enders, 
8, p. 361, n. 2. 

3 " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 22. 


that Satan s cohorts should be informed of all the secrets 
of Christ ; besides, there are some amongst us too weak to 
be able to relish such solid food." 1 

In spite of these precautions copies of the " counsel " 
came into circulation. The text reached Cochlocus, who 
forthwith, in 1531, had it printed as a document throwing 
a timely light on the belligerent League entered into at 
Schmalkalden in that year, lie subjoined a severe, running 
criticism, a reply by Paul Bachmann, Abbot of the monastery 
of Altenzell, and other writings. 2 

Cochlaeus pointed out, that it was not the Emperor but Luther, 
who had been a persecutor of the Gospel for more than twelve 
years. Should, however, the Emperor persecute the true Gospel 
of Christ, then the exhortation contained in Luther s memorandum 
patiently to allow things to take their course and even to suffer 
martyrdom, would be altogether inadmissible, because there 
existed plenty means of obtaining redress ; in such a case 
God was certainly more to be obeyed than the Emperor ; any 
Prince who should assist the Emperor in such an event must be 
looked upon as a tyrant and ravening wolf ; it was, on the con 
trary, the duty of the Princes to risk life and limb should the 
Gospel and true faith of their subjects be menaced ; and in tin 4 
same way the towns and all their burghers must offer resistance ; 
this would be no revolt, seeing that the Imperial authority would 
be tyrannously destroying the historic ecclesiastical order as 
handed down, in fact, the Divine order. Luther s desire, Cochkvus 
writes, that each one should answer for himself to the Emperor, 
was unreasonable and quite impossible for the unlearned. Finally, 
he warmly invites the doctors of the new faitli to return to 
Mother Church. 3 

The author of the other reply to Luther s secret memorandum 
dealt more severely with it. Abbot Bachmann declares, that it 
was not inspired by charity but by the cunning and malice of the 
old serpent. " As long as Luther had a free hand to carry on his 
heresies unopposed, he raged like a madman, called the Pope 
Antichrist, the Emperor a bogey, the Princes fools, tyrants and 
jackanapes, worse even than the Turks ; but, now that he fore 
sees opposition, the old serpent turns round and faces his tail, 
simulating a false humility, patience and reverence for the 
authorities, and says : A Christian must be ready to endure 
violence from his rulers ! Yet even this assertion is not true 
always and everywhere. ..." Should a ruler really persecute 

1 From the Gotha Cod., 399, fol. 130, in Enclers, " Brief wechsel," 
7, p. 242. 

2 Sammelschrift ohne Gesamttitel, Dresden, 1532. Vorne : 
Tnnhalt dieses Biichleins. 1. Fin Auszug usw. ; 2. Rathschlag M. 
Luthers an den Churfursten von Sachsen ; 3. Erklarung usw. 

3 For further particulars of the criticism of Cochlaeus, see Enders, 
7, p. 242 ff. 


the Divine teaching, then it would be necessary to defend oneself 
against him. " I should have had to write quite a big book," ho 
concludes, " had I wished to reply one by one to all the sophistries 
which Luther accumulates in this his counsel." 1 

The League of Schmalkalden and the Religious Peace of 

The League of Schmalkalden was first drawn up and 
subscribed to by Johann, Elector of Saxony, and Ernest, 
Duke of Brunswick, on February 27, 1531. The other 
members affixed their signatures to the document at 
Schmalkalden on March 29. The League comprised, in 
addition to the Electorate of Saxony and the Duchy of 
Brunswick-Luneburg, the Landgraviate of Hesse under 
Philip, the prime mover of the undertaking, and was also 
subscribed to by Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, Counts Gebhard 
and Albert of Mansfeld, and the townships of Strasburg, 
Ulm, Constance, Reutlingen, Memmingen, Lindau, Biberach, 
Isny, Liibeck, Magdeburg and Bremen. 

A wedge had been driven into the unity of Germany at 
the expense of her internal strength and external develop 
ment. What had been initiated at Gotha in 1526 by the 
armed coalition between Landgrave Philip of Hesse and the 
Elector of Saxony, in the interests of the religious innova 
tions, was now consummated. 

The obligation to which the members of the League of 
Schmalkalden pledged themselves by oath was as follows : 
That where one party is attacked or suffers violence for 
the Word of God or for causes arising from it, or on any 
other pretext, each one shall treat the matter in no other 
way than as though he himself were attacked, and shall 
therefore, without even waiting for the others, come to the 
assistance of the party suffering violence, and succour him 
to the utmost of his power." The alliance, which was first 
concluded for six years, was repeatedly renewed later and 
strengthened by the accession of new members. 

Luther, for his part, had now arrived at the goal whither 
his steps had been tending and towards which so many of 
the statements contained in his letters and writings had 
pointed, inspired as they were by a fiery prepossession in 
favour of his cause. It suited him admirably, that, when the 

1 Cp. the extract given by Enders, ibid., 244. 


iron which had so long been heating came upon the anvil, 
he should remain in the background, leaving to the lawyers 
the first place and the duty of tendering opinions. In his 
eyes, however, the future success of the League, in view of 
its then weakness, was still very doubtful. Should the 
Schmalkalden conference turn out to be the commencement 
of a period of misfortune for the innovations, still, thanks 
to the restraint which Luther had imposed on himself, in 
spite of his being the moving spirit and the religious link 
between the allies, his preaching of the Evangel would be 
less compromised. The miseries of the Peasant War, which 
had been laid to his account, the excesses of the Anabaptists 
against public order, the unpopularity which he had earned 
for himself everywhere on account of the revolts and dis 
turbance of the peace, were all of a nature to make him 
more cautious. There are many things to show, that, 
instead of promoting the outbreak of hostilities in the days 
immediately subsequent to the Diet of Augsburg, he would 
very gladly have contented himself with the assurance, 
that, for the present, the Reichstagsabschied not being 
capable of execution, things might as well take their course. 
By this policy he would gain time ; he was also anxious for 
the new faith quietly to win new ground, so as to demonstrate 
to the Emperor by positive proofs the futility of any pro 
ceedings against himself. 

The wavering attitude of many of the Catholic Estates 
at Augsburg had inspired him with great hopes of securing 
new allies. It there became apparent that either much had 
been rotten for a long time past in that party of the Diet 
which hitherto had been faithful to the Pope, or that the 
example of the Protesters had proved infectious. 

Wider prospects were also opening out for Lutheranism. 
In Wtirtemberg Catholicism was menaced by the machina 
tions of the Landgrave of Hesse. There seemed a chance of 
the towns of Southern Germany being won back from 
Zwinglian influences and making common cause with 
Wittenberg. Henry the Eighth s failure in his divorce 
proceedings also raised the hopes of the friends of the new 
worship that England, too, might be torn away from the 
Papal cause. At the conclusion of the Diet, Bugenhagen 
had been summoned by the magistrates of Ltibeck in order 
to introduce the new Church system in that city. 

Ill, F 


In Bavaria there was danger lest the jealousy of the 
Dukes at the growth of the house of Habsburg, and their 
opposition to the expected election of Ferdinand as King, 
should help in the spread of schism. 

It is noteworthy that Luther s letter to Ludwig Senfl, the 
eminent and not unfriendly musician and composer, band 
master to Duke William and a great favourite at the Court 
of Bavaria, should have been sent just at this time. To 
him Luther was high in his praise of the Court : Since the 
Dukes of Bavaria were so devoted to music, he must extol 
them, and give them the preference over all other Princes, 
for friends of music must necessarily possess a good seed of 
virtue in their soul. This connection with Senfl he con 
tinued in an indirect fashion. 1 

The best answer to the resolutions passed at Augsburg 
seemed to the first leader of the movement to lie in expansion, 
i.e. in great conquests, to be achieved in spite of all threats 
of violence. 

Instead of having recourse to violence, the Empire, how 
ever, entered into those negotiations which w^ere ultimately 
to lead, in 1532, to the so-called Religious Peace of Nurem 
berg. At about this time Luther sent a missive to his 
Elector in which his readiness for a religious war is perfectly 

The document, which WSLS composed jointly with the other 
Wittenberg theologians, and for the Latinity of which Melanchthon 
may have been responsible, treats, it would appear, of certain 
Imperial demands for concessions made at the Court of the 
Elector on September 1, 1531, previous to the Schmalkalden con 
ference. These demands manifest the utmost readiness on the 
part of the authorities of the Empire to make advances. Yet 
Luther in his reply refuses to acquiesce even in the proposal that 
people eve.ywhere should be allowed to receive the Sacrament 
under one kind, according to the ritual hitherto in use. We are 
bound to declare openly and at all times, he says, that all those 
who refrain from receiving under both kinds are guilty of sin. 
He continues, referring to the other points under debate : 
It is true that we are told of the terrible consequences which 
must result should " war and rebellion break out, the collapse of 
all public order fall like a scourge upon Germany, and the Turks 
and other foreign powers subjugate the divided nation. To this 
our reply is : Sooner let the world perish than have peace at the 
expense of the Evangel. We know our teaching is certain ; not 
a hair s breadth may we yield for the sake of the public peace. 

1 See vol. ii., p. 171 f. " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 277. 


We must commend ourselves to God, Who has hitherto pro 
tected His Church during the most terrible wars, and Who has 
helped us beyond all expectation." 1 

This argument based on the Evangel cuts away the ground 
from under all Luther s previous more moderate counsels. 

The religious peace of Nuremberg was in the end more 
favourable to him than he could have anticipated. To 
his dudgeon, however, he had to remain idle while the 
guidance of the movement was assumed almost entirely by 
the League of Schmalkalden, the fact that the League was a 
military one supplying a pretext for dispossessing him more 
and more of its direction. Already, in 1530, he had been 
forced to look on while Philip made advances to the sectaries 
of Zurich and the other Zwinglian towns of Switzerland, and 
concluded a treaty with them on November 16 for mutual 
armed assistance in the event of an attack on account of 
the faith. " This will lead to a great war," he wrote to the 
Elector, " and, as your Electoral Highness well knows, in 
such a war we shall be defending the error concerning the 
Sacrament, which will thus become our own ; from this may 
Christ, my Lord, preserve your Electoral Highness." 2 

His apprehensions, lest the good repute of his cause 
should be damaged by unjust bloodshed, grew, when, in 
1534, the warlike Landgrave set out for Wurtemberg. 

It was a crying piece of injustice and violence when Philip 
of Hesse, after having allied himself with France, by means 
of a lucky campaign, robbed King Ferdinand of Wurtem 
berg and established the new faith in that country by 
reinstating the Lutheran Duke Ulrich. 3 

Before the campaign Luther had declared that it was 
" contrary to the Gospel," and would " bring a stain upon 
our teaching," and that " it was wrong to disturb or 
violate the peace of the commonwealth." 4 He hinted at 
the same time that he did not believe in a successful issue : 
" No wise man," he said subsequently, " would have risked 
it." 5 Yet, when the whole country was in the hands of the 

1 " Brief wechsel," 9, p. 76. Enders refers it to the " latter half of 
August, 1531." 

2 On December 12, 1530, " Werke," Erl. ed., 54, p. 204 (" Brief- 
wechsel," 8, p. 331). 

3 Janssen-Pastor, " Gesch. des deutschen Volkes," 3 18 , p. 292 ff. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 332 and Mathoaiiis " Tischreden/ 1 
p. 133. Account given in his own words. 

6 " Werke," ibid., p. 334 seq. 


conqueror, when a treaty of peace had been signed in which 
the articles on religion were purposely framed in obscure and 
ambiguous terms, while the prospects of the new faith, 
in view of Ulrich s character, seemed excellent, Luther 
expressed his joy and congratulations to the Hessian Court 
through Justus Menius, a preacher of influence : " We 
rejoice that the Landgrave has returned happily after having 
secured peace. It is plain that this is God s work ; contrary 
to the general expectation He has set our fears to rest ! He 
Who has begun the work will also bring it to a close. Amen." l 

Luther himself tells us later what foreign power it was 
that had rendered this civil war in the very heart of Germany 
possible. " Before he [the Landgrave] reinstated the Duke 
of Wiirtemberg he was in France with the King, who lent 
him 200,000 coronati to carry on the war." 2 

The fear of an impending great war between the religious 
parties in Germany was gradually dispelled. The object of 
the members of the League of Schmalkalden in seeking 
assistance from France and England was to strengthen their 
position against a possible attack on the part of the Emperor ; 
at the same time, by refusing to lend any assistance against 
the Turks, they rendered him powerless. 

Luther now ventured to prophesy an era of peace. We 
shall have peace, he said, and there is no need to fear a war 
on account of religion. "But questions will arise concerning 
the bishoprics and the foundations," as the Emperor is 
trying to get the rich bishoprics into his hands, and the 
other Princes likewise ; " this will lead to quarrels and 
blows, for others also want their share." 3 This confirms the 
observation made above : In place of a religious struggle 
the Princes preferred to wrangle over ecclesiastical property 
and rights, of which they were jealous. Thus Luther s 
prediction concerning the character of the struggle in the 
years previous to the Schmalkalden and Thirty Years War 
was not so far wrong. 

Luther and the Religious War in Later Years. 

Luther was never afterwards to revert to his original 
disapproval of armed resistance to the Emperor. 

1 On July 14, 1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 63. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 134. 

3 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 362. 


-In his private conversations we frequently find, on the contrary, 
frank admissions quite in agreement with the above remark on 
"war and rebellion" being justified by the Divine and in 
destructible Evangel. It is not only lawful, he says, but necessary 
to fight against the Emperor in the cause of the Evangel. Should 
he begin a war against our religion, our worship and our Church, 
then he is a tyrant. Of this there is no question. Is it not lawful 
to fight in defence of piety ? Even nature demands that we should 
take up arms in defence of our children and our families. Indeed, 
I shall, if possible, address a writing to the whole world exhorting 
all to the defence of their people." 1 

Other similar statements are met with in his lable-Ialk a 1 
later date. " It is true a preacher ought not to fight in his own 
defence, for which reason I do not take a sword with me when 1 
mount the pulpit, but only on journeys." 2 " The lawyers, 
said, on February 7, 1538, " command us to resist the Empe]or, 
simply desiring that a madman should be deprived of his sword. 
The natural law requires that if one member injure another 
he be put under restraint, made a prisoner and kept in custody. 
But from the point of view of theology, there are doubts (Matt. 
v , 1 Peter ii.). I reply, however, that statecraft permits, nay 
commands, self-defence, so that whoever does not defend himself 
is regarded as his own murderer," in spite of the fact, that, as a 
Christian and "believer in the Kingdom of Christ, he must 
suffer all things, and may not in this guise either eat or drink or 
beget children." In many cases it is necessary to put away 
" the Christianum and bring to the fore the politicam personam, 
just as a man may slay incontinently the violator of his wife. 
" We are fighting, not against Saul, but against Absalom. 
Besides, the "Emperor might not draw the sword without the 
consent of the Seven Electors. " The sword belongs to us, and 
only at our request may he use it." 4 " Without the seven he has 
no power ; indeed, if even one is not for him, his power is nil and 
he is no longer monarch. ... I do not deprive the Emperor of 
the sword, but the Pope, who has no business to lord it and act 
as a tyrant." 5 " The Emperor will not commence a war on his 
own account but for the sake of the Pope, whose vassal he has 
become ; he is only desirous of defending the abominations of 
the Pope, who hates the Gospel and thinks of nothing but his own 
godless power." 6 

Luther, in his anger against the Papists and the priests, g 
so far as to place them 011 a par with the Turks and to advise 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 334, " Tischreden." 2 Ibid. 

3 " Colloq.." ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 303 seq. 

4 Ibid., p. 366 seq. : " Ha ul nos habeamus gladium traditum posses- 
sorium. Cccsar vero tantum in nobis habet gladium petitorium, these 
are not times ut tempore martyrum, ubi Dioclctianus solus regebat" 

5 The passage from " indeed if one " to " as a tyrant " was omitted 
by Rebenstock in his Table-Talk and is differently worded in 
the German Table-Talk, "Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 194 f. 

6 " Colloquia," I.e., pp. 365, 367 : " Papce adiino gladium, note 
ccesari, quia papa non debet esse magistratus neque tyrannus" 


their being slaughtered j 1 this he did, for instance, in May, 1540. 
In 1539 he says : " Were I the Landgrave, I should set about it, 
and either perish or else slay them because they refuse peace in a 
good and just cause ; but as a preacher it does not beseem rne 
to counsel this, much less to do it myself." 2 The Papal 
Legate, Paolo Vergerio, when with Luther in 1535, expressed 
to him his deep indignation at the deeds of King Henry VIII. of 
England, who had put to death Cardinal John Fisher and Sir 
Thomas More. Luther wrote to Melanchthon of Vergerio s 
wrath and his threats against the King, but shared his feelings 
so little as actually to say : " Would that there were a few more 
such kings of England to put to death these cardinals, popes 
and legates, these traitors, thieves, robbers, nay, devils incarnate." 
Such as they, he says, plunder and rob the churches and are 
worse than a hundred men of the stamp of Verres or a thousand 
of that of Dionysius. " How is it that Princes and lords, 
who are always complaining to us of the injury done to the 
churches, endure it ? " 3 

Even in official memoranda Luther soon threw all dis 
cretion to the winds, and ventured to speak most strongly in 
favour of armed resistance. 

Such was the memorandum, of January, 1539, addressed 
to the Elector Johann Frederick and signed at Weimar by 
Jonas, Bucer and Melanchthon, as well as Luther. The 
Elector had asked for it owing to the dangerous position of 
the League of Schmalkalden, now that peace had been 
concluded between the Emperor and Francis I. of France. 
He had also enquired how far the allies might take advantage 
of the war with the Turks ; and whether they might make 
their assistance against the Turks contingent upon certain 
concessions being granted to the new worship. The second 
question will be dealt with later ; 4 as to the first, whether 
resistance to the Emperor was allowed, the signatories 
replied affirmatively in words which go further than any 
previous admission. 5 

In the " Tischreden " of Mathesius (p. 80), Luther says : " We 
shall never be successful against them [the Turks] unless we fall upon 
them and the priests at the right moment and smite them dead." 
The editor remarks : "By this he can only mean the priests in genera], 
not those only of the two small bishoprics." See vol. ii., p. 324. Cp. 
vol. ii., p. 325, and N. Paulus, " Luther iiber die Totung katholischer 
Geistlichen " (Histor.-polit. Blatter 147, 1911), p. 92 ff. 
2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 402. 

8 Commencement of December, 1535, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 275 : 
Utinam haberent plures reges Anylice qui illos occiderent. 
4 See xv., 4. For reply see Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 401. 

" Briefwechsel," 12, p. 78, and Letters ed. by De Wette, G, p. 223. 


They bad already, they say, " given their answer and opinion 
and there was no doubt that this was the Divine truth which 
we are bound to confess even at the hour of death, viz. that 
not only is defence permitted, but a protest is verily, * 
indeed, incumbent on all." Here it will be observed that 
Luther no longer says merely that the lawyers inferred this 
from the Imperial law, but that God, "to Whom we owe this 
duty," commanded that " idolatry and forbidden worship 
should not be tolerated. Numerous references to the Word ot 
God " regarding the authorities were adduced m support of this 
contention (Ps. Ixxxii. 3 ; Exod. xx. 7 ; Ps . 11. 10, 11 ;1 Tim. 
i 9) It is pointed out how in the Sacred Books the Kings ; o 
Juda are praised for exterminating idolatry." " Every father 
is bound to protect his wife and child from murder and there is 
no difference between a private murderer and the Emperor 
should he attempt unjust violence outside his office, 
is on all fours with one where the " overlord tries to impose on 
his subjects blasphemy and idolatry," hence war must be waged, 
just as " Constantine fell upon Licinius, his ally and brother-in- 
law " David, Ezechias and other holy kings likewise risked life 
and limb for the honour of Gocl. " This is all to be understood as 
referring to defence." But " where the ban has been proclaimed 
against one or more of the allies," " discord has already broken 
out " Those under the ban have lost " position and dignity, 
and may commence the attack without further ado. Still, 
is not for us to assume that hostilities should be commenced at 
once " ; this is the business of those actually concerned. 

Such was the advice of Luther and those mentioned above 
to the Elector, when lie was about to attend a meeting of 
the League of Schmalkaldcn at Frankfurt, where another 
attempt was to be made to prevent the outbreak of hostili 
ties by negotiations with the Emperor s ministers. Luther 
was apprehensive of war as likely to lead to endless mis 
fortunes, yet his notion that " idolatry " must be rooted out 
would allow of no yielding on his part, " It is almost certain 
that this memorandum was made use of at the negotiations 
preliminary to the Frankfurt conference, seeing that the 
Elector in the final opinion he addressed to his councillors 

repeats it almost word for word." 1 The memorandum was 

probably drawn up by Melanchthon. 

At that very time Luther seems also to have received 

news from Brandenburg that Joachim II., the Elector, was 

about to Protestantise his lands. Such tidings would 

naturally make him all the more defiant. 

1 Thus the editor of the memorandum, in " Briefwechsel," 12 p. 80 f ., 

with a reference to the document in question in the Weimar Arc! 

and to Seckendorf, 3, pp. 200, 252. 


Joachim, in spite of his sympathies for Lutheranism, had 
hitherto refrained from formally embracing it, not wishing 
to come into conflict with the Emperor. In 1539, however, 
he publicly apostatised, casting to the winds all his earlier 
promises. As Calvin wrote to Farel, in November, 1539, 
Joachim had informed the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, his 
chief tempter, that he had now made up his mind to " accept 
the Gospel and to exterminate Popery," 1 and this he did 
with the best will, though he took no part in the Schmal- 
kalden War against the Emperor. In his case politics and 
a disinclination to make war on the Emperor were the de 
termining factors. 

While Joachim was still quietly pursuing his subversive 
plans in the March of Brandenburg, the ever-recurring 
question was already being discussed anew amongst the 
Lutherans in that quarter, viz. whether Luther had not 
previously, and with greater justice, declared himself 
against resistance, and whether he was not therefore hostile 
to the spirit of the League of Schmalkalden. 

A nobleman, Caspar von Kokeritz, probably one of Joachim s 
advisers, requested Luther to furnish the Protestant preacher at 
Cottbus, Johann Ludicke, with a fresh opinion on the lawfulness 
of resistance. The request was justified by the difference between 
Luther s earlier standpoint which was well known at Cottbus 
and that which he had more recently adopted. From the 
difficulty Luther sought to escape in a strongly worded letter to 
Ludicke, dated February 8, 1539, which is in several ways 
remarkable. 2 

In this letter the lawyers and the Princes again loom very 
large. They had most emphatically urged the employment of 
force, and " very strong reasons exist against my opposing this 
desire and plan of our party." In his earlier memorandum 3 
lie had been thinking of the Emperor as Emperor, but now he 
had come to look on him as what he really was, viz. as a mere 
" hireling " of the Pope. The Pope is desirous of carrying out 
his " diabolical wickedness " with the help of the Emperor. 
" Hence, if it is lawful to fight against the Turks and to defend 
ourselves against them, how much more so against the Pope, 
who is worse? " Still, he was willing to stand by his earlier opinion, 
provided only that Pope, Cardinals and Emperor would admit 
that they were all of them the devil s own servants ; " then my 

1 Janssen, " Hist, of the German People," p. G, GO f. 
Brief wechsel," 12, p. 87 ; " Brief e," 5, p. 159. 
" That given under the Elector Johann," says Luther, i.e. that 
of March, 1530 (above, p. 52), in which Luther had declared that armed 
resistance against the Emperor " can in no way be reconciled with 


advice will be the same as before, viz. that we yield to the 
heathen tyrants." Other reasons too had led him, so he says, t( 
discard his previous opinion, but he is loath to commit them t 
writing for fear lest something might reach the ears of 
abominable ministers of Satan." Instead he launches out into 
biblical proofs, urging that the " German Princes, who together 
with the Emperor governed the realm, " communi consilio, had 
more right to withstand the Emperor than the Jewish people 
when they withstood Saul, or those others who, in the ( 
ment, resisted the authorities, and yet met with the Divine 
approval. The constitution of the Empire might not be altered 
by the Emperor, " who is not the monarch," and least of all 11 
the devil s cause. He may not be aware that it is this cause that 
he is furthering, but we know for certain that it is. Let wnac i 
have said be enough for you, and leave the rest to the teaching c 
the Spirit. Let your exhortation be to render unto the Kais< 
the things that are the Kaiser s. Ceterum secretum meu 
mihi." 1 , ,, 

It is not difficult from the above to guess the secret 
was the impending apostasy of the Electorate of Brandenbv 

Luther had already several times come into contact with 
Joachim II. The Elector s mother was friendly with him 
and came frequently to Wittenberg. Concerning her foes 
Luther once wrote to Jonas : " May the Lord Jesus give me 
insight and eloquence against the darts of Satan."* In his 
letter of congratulation to the Elector on his apostasy he 
hints more plainly at the opponents to whom he had referred 
darkly in his letter to Ludicke : " I am less concerned about 
the subtlety of the serpents than about the growl of the lion, 
which perchance, coming from those in high places, may 
disquiet your Electoral Highness."* 

When the religious war of Schmalkalden at last broke out, 
the foes of Wittenberg recalled Luther s biblical admo 
nitions in 1530 against the use of arms in the cause of the 
Gospel, which Cochhcus had already collected and published. 
These they caused to be several times reprinted (1546), with 
the object of showing the injustice of the protesters attitude 
by the very words of the Reformer, who had died just before. 
The Wittenberg theologians replied (1547), but their answer 
only added to the tangle of the network of evasions. As a 
counter-blast they printed Luther s later memoranda, or 

1 " Brief e," 5, p. 188. The passage concludes with a translation 
of the Latin text appended by a later hand. 

2 On June 11, 1539, " Briefwechsel," 12, p. 105; Briete, o, 

3 611 December 4, 1539, " Briefwechsel," 12, p. 313 ; " Brief e," 
5, p. 233. 


" Conclusions," in favour of the use of force, adding prefaces 
by Melanchthoii and Bugenhagen ; where the prefaces 
come to deal with the awkward statement made by Luther 
in 1530, the writers have recourse to the device of question 
ing its authenticity ; this Melanchthon does merely inci 
dentally, Bugenhagen of set purpose. 1 According to 
Bugenhagen, who, as a matter of fact, had himself assisted 
in drawing up the statement, it deserved to be relegated 
to the domain of fiction ; Luther s enemies, he says, had 
fabricated the document in order to injure the Evangel. 
He even asserted that he could quote Luther s own assur 
ances in this matter ; according to Caspar Cruciger, 
Luther had declared in his presence that the memorandum 
of 1530 had not " emanated " from him, though " carried 
the rounds by his enemies." Bugenhagen was unable to 
understand, so he says, how his own name came to be there, 
and repeatedly he speaks of the document as the " alleged " 
letter. He also tells us that he had repudiated it as early as 
1531, immediately after its publication by Cochlscus ; if 
this be true, then it is difficult to explain away his denial as 
due to mere forgetfulness. His statements are altogether at 
variance with what we are told by the physician, Matth. 
Katzcberger, Luther s friend, who was always opposed to 
the war, and who, in his tract of 1552, " A Warning against 
Unrighteous Ways," etc., blames Bugenhagen for his 
repudiation of Luther s authority. 2 From the above it is 

1 Eiiders, " Brief wechsel," 7, p. 245 ft 1 ., where he gives extracts 
from the publication in question. According to him, Luther s friend, 
J. Meriius, also introduces the memorandum with the words " An 
old writing said to be by the Reverend D. M. L." " On self-defence " 

2 The tract is printed by Hortleder, " Von den Ursachen des deut- 
schen Krieges," 2, Gotha, 1645, p. 39 ff., and the passage in question 
(p. 50) rims : " D. Pommer and Melanchthon have repudiated D 
Martins counsels to the Elector Johanri ... in a public writing, 
and not only declare that they are not D. Martin s but have condemned 
them as false, and contrary to the plain truth of God s Word." P. 
\\appler, "Inquisition und Ketzerprozesse in Zwickau zur Reforrna- 
tionszeit, Leipzig, 1908, p. 134, says : " Naturally the repudiation 
ot this memorandum of Luther s of March, 1530, on the part of theo 
logians of the standing of Melanchthon and Bugenhagen, who had 
actually sanctioned it themselves, was not of a nature to enhance the 
reputations of those theologians amongst such as had read Luther s early 
writings on the behaviour to be observed towards the secular authority." 
Cp. O. Clemen, " Bemerkungen zu Luthers Rathschlag an Kurfiirst 
Johann von Sachsen vom 6. Marz 1530," in " Theol. Studien und 
Kritiken," 1909, p. 471 ff 


evident that we have no right to praise Bugenhagen, as has 
been done in modern days, " for the fire with which he was 
wont to advocate the truth." Regarding Melanchthon s 
love of truth we shall have more to say later. 

On looking back over the various statements made by 
Luther concerning armed resistance, we cannot fail to be 
struck by their diversity ; the testimony they afford is the 
reverse of favourable to their author s consistency and 

By his very nature Luther felt himself drawn to proclaim 
the rijyht of armed resistance in the cause of the Evangel. 
Of this feeling we have indications even at an early date in 
certain unguarded outbursts which were repeated at 
intervals in such a way as to leave no doubt as to his real 
views. Yet, until 1530, his official and public statements, 
particularly to the Princes, speak quite a different language. 
The divergence was there and it was impossible to get rid of 
it either by explanation or by denial. As soon as things 
seemed about to lead inevitably to war, Luther saw that the 
time had come to cast moderation to the winds. He was 
unwilling to sacrifice his whole life-work, and the protesting 
Estates had no intention of relinquishing their new rights 
and privileges. Formerly it had seemed advisable and 
serviceable to the spread of the Evangel to clothe it in the 
garb of submissiveness to the supreme authority of the 
Empire and of patient endurance for the sake of truth, but, 
after the Diet of Augsburg such considerations no longer 
held good. Overcoming whatever hesitation he still felt, 
Luther yielded to the urgings of the secular politicians. 

From that time his memoranda assumed a different 
character. At the commencement of the change their word 
ing betrays the difficulties with which Luther found himself 
faced when called upon to reconcile his later with his earlier 
views. It was, however, not long before his combative 
temper completely got the better of his scruples in Luther s 
writings and letters. 

Nothing is more unhistorical than to imagine that his 
guiding idea was "By the Word only," in the sense of 
deprecating all recourse to earthly weapons and desiring 
that the Word should prevail simply by its own inherent 
strength. He had spoken out his real mind when he said, in 


1522 : " Every power must yield to the Evangel, whether 
willingly or unwillingly," and again, in 1530, " Let things 
take their course . . . even though it eomc to war or 
revolt." Only on these lines can we explain his action. His 
firm conviction of his own Divine mission (below, xvi.) 
confirms this assumption. 

4. The Turks Without and the Turks [Papists] Within 
the Empire 

The stupendous task of repelling the onslaught of the 
Turkish power, which had cost Western Christendom such 
great sacrifices in the past, was, at the commencement of the 
third decade of the sixteenth century, the most pressing one 
for both Hungary and the German Empire. 

Sultan Suleiman the Second s lust for conquest had, 
since 1520, become a subject of the gravest misgivings in 
the West. With the help of his countless warlike hordes he 
had, in 1521, taken Belgrad, the strong outpost of the 
Christian powers, and, after a terrible struggle, on December 
25 of the following year, captured from the Knights of St. 
John the strategically so important island of Rhodes. 
There now seemed every likelihood of these victories being 
followed up. The Kingdom of Hungary, which so long and 
gloriously had stemmed the inroads of the infidel into 
Christendom, now felt itself unable to cope single-handed 
with the enemy and accordingly appealed to the Emperor 
for help. 

At the Diet of Nuremberg, in 1524, the Imperial Abschied 
of April 18 held out a promise of assistance in the near 
future, and even instanced tentatively the means to be 
adopted by the Empire. In the meantime appeals were to 
be made to the other Christian powers for help, so that 
the final resolutions concerning the plan of defence might be 
discussed and settled at the Spires Convention on November 
11 of the same year. 

Luther thought it his duty to interfere in these prepara 

Against Assistance for the Turkish War. 
The Diet of Nuremberg had re-enacted the Edict of Worms 
against Luther. It had requested the Pope to summon a 


" free, general Council " in some suitable spot in Germany 1 
" in order that good may not be overborne by evil, and that 
true believers and subjects of Christ may be brought to a 
firm belief in a common faith." Incensed by the renewal of 
the Edict of Worms against his doctrine and person, Luther 
at once published an angry work, " Zwey keyserliche 
uneynige und wydderwertige Gepott " (1524),* m which he 
declared himself against the granting of any help whatevei 
against the Turks. 

He beams by saying of the authors of the new decree against 
LutherS, that surlly even pigs and donkeys could see how 
blindly and obstinately they were acting ; ^ - ahommable tha 
the Emperor and the Princes should openly deal in lies. After 
a lengthy discussion of the decree, he comes to the question of 
the l?elp y which was so urgently needed in order to rejpel the 
Turks; he says: "Finally I beg of you all, dear Christians 
that you will join in praying to God for those miserable, blinded 
Princes, whom no doubt God Himself has placed over us as a 
curse, that we may not follow them against the Turks, o 
money for this undertaking ; for the Turks are ten times cleverer 
and more devout than are our Princes. How can such fools 
who tempt and blaspheme God so greatly, expect to be successful 

ag afchlS ren for refusing help against the Turks was the 
blasphemy against God of which the Princes of the Empire and 
the Emperor, had rendered themselves guilty by withstan- 

^fdedares, " I would ten times rather be dead than listen 
to such blasphemy and insolence against the Divine Majesty. 
. God deliver us from them, and give us, in His mercy, other 
rulers. Amen."-The Emperor himself he charges with presump 
tion for daring-agreeably with age-long ^tom-to styte 
himself the chief Protector of the Christian faith 
lessly does the Emperor boast of this, lie who is after all but a 
perishable bag of worms, and not sure of his life for one mom 
The Divine power of the faith has surely no need of a Protector, 
he says ; he scoffs at him and at the King of England, who style 
himself Defender of the Faith ; would that all pious Christians 
"would take pity upon such mad, foolish, senseless, raving, 
witless fools." 4 

i Cp. Janssen-Pastor, 2 p. 355 il The P*^" 
also reprinted in Luther s " Werke," Weim. ed., lo, p. 273 f. , 

242 * Janssen Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.) 4 p 40 if f. 

3 Ibid., p. 41. In Kostlin-Kawerau also (1, P-^^* 
out that Luther " warns against any compliance with the 

4 Ibid. 


Even in the midst of the storm caused by his Indulgence 
Theses, Luther had already opposed the lending of any 
assistance against the Turks. A sermon preached in the 
winter of 1518, in which he took this line, was circulated 1 
by his friends. When Spalatin enquired of him in the 
Elector s name whether the Turkish War for which 
Cardinal Cajetan was just then asking for help could he 
justified by Holy Scripture, Luther replied, that the contrary 
could be proved from many passages ; that the Bible was 
full of the unhappy results of wars undertaken in reliance on 
human means ; that those wars alone were successful where 
heaven fought for the people ; that now it was impossible to 
count upon victory in view of the corruption of Christendom 
and the tyranny and the hostility to Christ displayed by the 
Roman Church ; on the contrary, God was fighting against 
them; 2 He must first be propitiated by tears, prayer, 
amendment of life and a pure faith. In the Resolutions on 
the Indulgence Theses we find the same antipathy to the 
war, again justified on similar mystical and polemical 

His words in the Resolutions were even embodied by 
Rome in one of the propositions condemned on the proclama 
tion of the ban : "To fight against the Turks is to withstand 
God, \Vho is using them for the punishment of our sins." 3 

When, later, he came to approve of and advocate the war 
against the Turks, he declared, quite frankly : "I am open to 
confess that such an article was mine, and was advanced and 
defended by me in the past." 

He adds that he would be ready to defend it even now were 
things in the same state as then. But where did he discern any 
difference ? According to him, people then, before he had 
instructed them concerning its origin and office, had no idea of 
what secular authority really was. " Princes and lords who 
desired to be pious, looked upon their position and office as of no 
account, not as being the service of God, and became mere 

1 " Ne susciperetur ullo modo bellum huiusmodi." Cp. Luther to 
Spalatin, December 21, 1518, " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 333. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Propos., 34. Denzinger, "Enchiridion" 9 , p. 178. P. Kalkoff, 
" Forschungen zu Luthers romischem Prozess," 1905, seeks the actual 
source of the proposition condemned. Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 352, 
merely quotes the passage from the Resolutions in which Luther 
incidentally speaks of the " Great lords in the Church," " who dream 
of nothing but war against the Turks [for which purpose the Pope was 
at that time imposing taxes], and, instead of fighting sin, withstand 
God s chastisement for sin and thus resist God Himself." 


priests and monks." But then he had written his " Von wellt- 
licher Uberkeytt" (1523). Having re-instated the secular 
authority, so long " smothered and neglected," he was loath to 
see it summoned against the Turks by the Pope. Besides, he is 
quite confident that the Pope had never been in earnest about 
the Turkish War ; his real aim was to enrich his exchequer. l 

Luther also explains that from the first he had been inclined to 
oppose the granting of any aid against the Turks on the theo 
logical ground embodied in his condemned proposition, viz. 
that God visits our sins upon us by means of the Turks. Here 
again he will not admit himself to have been in the wrong, for 
Christians must " endure wrong, violence or injustice . . . not 
resist evil, but allow and suffer all things " as the Gospel teaches. 
Characteristically enough, he appeals to that " piece of Christian 
doctrine " according to which the Christian is to offer his left 
cheek to him who smites him on the right, and leave his cloak to 
the man who takes away his coat. Now, what our Lord taught 
in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. v. 39 f.), was not, as he had 
already pointed out, a mere counsel of perfection, but a real 
command ; but the " Pope with his schools and convents had 
made of this a counsel which it was permissible not to keep, and 
which a Christian might neglect, and had thus distorted the 
words of Christ, taught the whole world a falsehood, and cheated 
Christians." 2 A way out of the fatal consequences which must 
ensue, Luther fancies he is able to find in the distinction between 
the true Christian and mere worldly citizen ; it was not incumbent 
on the latter to perform everything that was binding on the 

Previous to writing his " Von wclltlichcr Uberkeytt," re 
ferred to above, he had again publicly expressed himself as 
opposed to the efforts of the Empire on behalf of the Turkish 
War ; though no longer because the authorities lacked a 
right sense of their office, or because Christ s counsel made 
submission a duty, but for quite another reason : Before 
taking any steps against the Turks it was necessary to resist 
the impious dominion of the Pope, compared with which 
the danger from the Turks paled into insignificance. To 
what purpose is it," he wrote in 1522, " to oppose the 
Turk ? What harm does the Turk do ? He invades a 
country and becomes its secular ruler. . . . The Turk also 
leaves each one free to believe as he pleases." In both 
respects the Pope is worse ; his invasions are more extensive, 
and, at the same time, he slays the souls, so that " as regards 
both body and soul the government of the Pope is ten times 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 108 f. ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 34 f. 
" On the Turkish War," 1529. 

2 Ibid., p. 110 = 35 f. 


worse than that of the Turk. ... If ever the Turks were to 
be exterminated it would be necessary first to begin with the 
Pope." The Christian method of withstanding the Turks 
would be to " preach the Gospel to them." 1 This paved the 
way for his warning, in 1524, against complying with the 
Emperor s call for assistance in fighting the Turks (above, 
p. 77). 

Such exhortations not to wage war against the Turks 
naturally tended to confuse the multitude to the last degree. 

Incautious Lutheran preachers also did their share in 
stirring up high and low against the burden of taxes imposed 
by the wars. Hence it was quite commonly alleged against 
the instigator of the religious innovations that, mainly 
owing to his action after the Diet of Spires, there was a 
general reluctance to grant the necessary supplies, though 
the clouds on the eastern horizon of the Empire were grow 
ing ever blacker. After the horrible disaster at Mohacz, in 
1526, Luther therefore found it necessary to exculpate him 
self before the public. 

In Favour of Assistance for the Turkish War. 

Luther gradually arrived at the decision that it was his 
duty to put his pen at the service of the war against the 

A change took place in his attitude similar to that which 
had occurred in 1525 at the time of the Peasant Rising, 
which his words, and those of the Reformed preachers, had 
done not a little to further. 

His friends, he says in 1529, " because the Turk was now so 
near," had insisted on his finishing a writing against them 
which had already been commenced ; " more particularly 
because of some unskilful preachers among us Germans, who, I 
regret to learn, are teaching the people that they must not fight 
against the Turks." Some, he writes, also taught, that " it was 
not becoming for any Christian to wield the sword " ; others 
went so far as to look forward to the coming of the Turks ard 
their rule. " And such error and malice amongst the people 
is all placed at Luther s door, as the fruit of my Evangel ; in the 
same way that I had to bear the blame of the revolt [of the 
peasants]. . . . Hence I am under the necessity of writing on 
the matter and of exculpating us, both for my own sake and for 
that of the Evangel ... in order that innocent consciences may 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 708 f. ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 18; "Bui 
of the Evening Feed of our most Holy Lord the Pope." 


not continue to be deceived by such calumnies, and be rendered 
suspicious of me and my teaching, or be wrongly led to believe 
that they must not fight against the Turks." 1 

In February, 1528, Suleiman II. was in a position to 
demand that King Ferdinand should evacuate Buda-Pesth, 
the capital ; it was already feared that his threat of visiting 
Ferdinand in Austria might be all too speedily fulfilled. 
The Sultan actually commenced, in the spring of 1529, his 
great campaign, which brought him to the very walls of 
Vienna. The city, however, defended itself with such 
heroism that the enemy was at last compelled to withdraw. 

In April, 1529, when the reports of the danger which 
menaced Austria had penetrated throughout the length and 
breadth of Germany, Luther at last published the writing 
above referred to, viz. " On the Turkish War." 

The booklet he dedicated to that zealous patron of the Refor 
mation, Landgrave Philip of Hesse. In it his intention is to 
teach "how to fight with a good conscience." He points out 
how the Emperor, as a secular ruler, must, agreeably with the 
office conferred on him by God, protect his subjects against the 
Turks, as against murderers and robbers, with the secular sword, 
which, however, has nothing to do with the faith. There were 
two wlio must wage the war, Christian and Charles ; but Christian s 
duty was merely that of the faithful everywhere who would pray 
for the success of the campaign ; this was all that the believers, 
as such, had to do ; Charles would fight, because tho example 
of Charles the Great would encourage him to bear the sword 
bravely, but only against the Turks as robbers and disturbers of 
the peace ; it would be no Crusade, such as had been undertaken 
against the infidel in the foolish days of old. Amongst the most 
powerful pages of the work are those in which, regardless of 
flattery, he impresses on the German Princes the need of union, 
of sacrifice of private interests and of obedience to the guidance 
of the Emperor, without which it was useless to hope for any 
thing in the present critical condition of the Empire. He scourges 
with a like severity certain faults into which Germans were 
prone to fall when engaged in warfare, viz. to under-estimate the 
strength of the enemy, and to neglect following up their victories ; 
instead of this, they would sit down and tipple until they again 
found themselves in straits. 2 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 107 f. ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 32 f. " On 
the Turkish War." " I fear that Germany will fall to the Turks. 
But I, poor Luther, am supposed to be to blame for everything ; even 
the Peasant Revolt and the denial of the Sacrament are laid to my 
charge." " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 405. Cp. " Werke," Erl. ed.. 
62, p. 392, and Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 127. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 107 ff. ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 32 ff. 




It does not, however, seem that these words of Luther s on 
behalf of the war against the Turks raised any great enthusiasm 
among the people. 

He again took up his pen, and this time more open- 
heartedly, when, on. October 14, the hour of Vienna s 
deliverance came and the last assault had been happily 
repulsed. The result was his " Hecr-Predigt widder den 
Tiircken " addressed to all the Germans. Here he sought 
to instruct them from Scripture concerning the Turks and 
the approaching Last Day. In stirring, homely words he 
exhorted them to rise and lend their assistance, pointing 
out that whoever fell in the struggle died a martyr. He 
fired the enthusiasm of his readers by even quoting the 
examples of the women and maidens in olden Germany. 
He also dwelt on the need of preserving the faith in captivity 
should it be the lot of any of the combatants to be taken 
prisoner, and even exhorted those who might be sold as 
slaves not to prove unfaithful by running away from their 
lawful masters. He consoled his readers at the same time 
with the thought, to which he ever attached such import 
ance, that, after all, in Turkey the devil did not rage nearly 
so furiously against Christians as the devil at home, i.e. the 
Pope, who was forcing them to deny Christ. 1 

We likewise find attacks on the Catholic fraction of the 
German nation, mingled with exhortations to resist the 
Turks, in a Preface he composed in 1530, on the occasion of 
the republication of an older work dating from Catholic 
times, " On the Morals and Religion of the Turks." 2 

The struggle raging in the heart of Germany, and the 
opposition of the Protestant Princes and Estates to the 
Emperor as head of the Realm, constituted the greatest 
obstacle to any scheme for united and vigorous action against 
the Turks. Hence to some extent Luther was indirectly 
responsible for the growth of the Ottoman Empire. On one 
occasion Luther gave vent to the following outburst : 
" Would that we Germans stood shoulder to shoulder, then 
it would be easy for us to resist the Turk. If we had 50,000 
foot and 10,000 horse constantly in the field . . . we could 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 160 ff.^80 ff. The Turk as a 
"Maker of Martyrs," p. 175 = 96. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 205 ff. ; Erl. ed., 65, p. 248 ff. 
" Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 514 sea. 


well withstand them and defend ourselves." 1 * The Sultan 
had, long before, taken into his calculations the dissensions 
created by Luther in the Empire." 2 On one occasion, about 
1532, as we know from Luther s " Talk Table," Suleiman made 
enquiries of a German named Schmaltz, who was attached 
to an embassy, concerning Luther s circumstances, and asked 
how old he was. To the answer that he was forty-eight 
years of age he replied : "I would he were still younger, 
for he would find a gracious master in me." Luther, 
when this was reported to him, made the sign of the cross 
and said : " May God preserve me from such a gracious 
master." 3 

Luther, as we shall see below, had occasion to write 
against the Turks even at a later date. His writings had, 
however, no widespread influence ; they were read only by 
one portion of the German nation, being avoided by the rest 
as works of an arch-heretic. Many marvelled at his audacity 
in presuming to teach the whole nation, and at his speaking 
as though he had been the leader of the people. Catholics 
were inclined, as Luther himself complains, to regard the 
growth of the Turkish power as God s chastisement for the 
apostasy of a part of Germany and for the Emperor s 
remissness in the matter of heresy. 

Even in his very tracts against the Turks, Luther did much 
to weaken the force of his call to arms. His aim should 
have been to inspire the people with enthusiasm and a 
readiness to sacrifice themselves, which might, in turn, have 
encouraged and fired the nobles ; but, as the experience of 
earlier ages had already proved, religion alone was able to 
produce such a change in the temper of a nation. Protection 
lor the common, spiritual heritage, defence of the religion 
and civilisation of the West, such was the only appeal which 
could have fired people s minds. And it was this banner 
which the Church unfurled, both before and after Luther s 
day, which had led to victory at the battle of Lepanto 
and again at the raising of the siege of Vienna. Luther, 
on the contrary, in his writing of 1529, repels so vehemently 
any idea of turning the contest with the infidel into a 
crusade, that he even has it that, " were I a soldier and 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 39(1 f. " Table-Talk." 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 283. 

3 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 397. 


descried on the field of battle a priestly banner, or one 
bearing a cross, or even a crucifix, I would turn and run as 
though the devil were at my heels ; and, if, by God s 
Providence, they nevertheless gained the victory, still I 
should take no share in the booty or the triumph." 1 

To insure a favourable issue to the campaign it was also 
necessary that the position of the Emperor as head of 
Christendom should be recognised, and the feeling of common 
interest between the sovereigns and nations be kindled 
anew. Yet the progress of the innovations, and Luther s 
own menacing attitude towards the Empire and the Catholic 
sovereigns, was contributing largely to shatter both the 
authority of the Empire and the old European unity, not to 
speak of the injury done to the Papal authority, to whose 
guidance the common welfare of Christendom had formerly 
been confided. 

Luther allowed his polemics to blunt entirely the effect of 
his summons. As, however, what he says affords us an 
insight into the working of his mind, it is of interest to the 

In the second of the two writings referred to above, the " Heer- 
Predigt," despite the general excellence of its contents, the 
constant harping on the nearness of the Last Day could not fail 
to exert an influence the reverse of that desired. At the very 
commencement lie ventilates his views on the prophecies of 
Daniel ; he likewise will have it that the prophecy concerning Gog 
and Magog in Ezechiel also refers to the Turks, and that we even 
read of them in the Apocalypse ; their victories portended the 
end of all things. His last warnings run as follows : "In the 
end it will come about that the devil will attack Christendom 
with all his might and from every side. . . . Therefore let us 
watch and be valiant in a firm faith in Christ, and let each one be 
obedient to the authorities and see what -God will do, leaving 
things to take their course ; for there is nothing good to be hoped 
for any more." 2 Such pessimism was scarcely calculated to 
awaken enthusiasm. 

Nor does he conceal his fears lest a successful campaign against 
the Turks should lead the Emperor and the Catholic Princes to 
turn their arms against the Evangelicals, in order to carry out 
the Edict of Worms. He so frequently betrays this apprehension 
that we might almost be led to think that he regarded the 
Turkish peril as a welcome impediment, did we not know on the 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 115; Erl. ed., 31, p. 40. "On 
the Turkish War." 

2 Ibid., p. 196 = 119. Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden " (ed. Kroker), 
p. 149 : " Ego credo Turcicum rcgnum non posse m opprimi " (a. 1540). 


other hand how greatly he came to dread it as he advanced in 
years. This anxiety concerning possible intentions of the 
Catholics he felt so keenly in 1529 as to append to the second of 
his tracts on the Turkish War a peculiarly inappropriate monition, 
viz. that Germans " must not allow themselves to be made use 
of against the Evangel, or fight against or persecute Christians ; 
for thus they would become guilty of innocent blood and be no 
better than the Turks. ... In such a case no subject is in the 
least bound to obey the authorities, in fact, where this occurs, 
all authority is abrogated." 1 

Injudicious considerations such as these are also to be found 
in the earlier tract ; here, however, what is most astonishing is 
his obstinacy in re-affirming his earlier doctrine, already con 
demned by Rome, viz. that it was not becoming in Christians, as 
such, to resist the Turk by force of arms, seeing that God was 
using the Turks for the chastisement of Christendom. "As we 
refuse to learn from Scripture," he says, speaking in his wonted 
mystical tone, " the Turk must teach us with the sword, until 
we learn by sad experience that Christians must not fight or 
resist evil. Fools backs must be dusted with the stick." 2 He 
also expresses his misgivings because "Christians and Princes are 
so greatly urged, driven and incited to attack the Turks and fall 
upon them, before we have amended our own lives and begun 
to live as true Christians " ; on this account " war was not to be 
recommended." 3 Real amendment would have consisted in 
accepting the Lutheran Evangel. Yet, instead of embracing 
Lutheranism, " our Princes are negotiating how best to molest 
Luther and the Evangel; there, surely, is the real Turk." 4 
Because they had ordered fasts, and penitential practices, and 
Masses of the Holy Ghost, in order to implore, God s protection 
against the Turk, the Catholic Princes drew down upon them 
selves the following rebuke : " Shall God be gracious to you, 
faithless rulers of unfortunate subjects ! What devil urges you 
to make such a fuss about spiritual matters, which are not 
your business, but concern God and the conscience alone, and to 
do the work God has committed to you and which does concern 
you and your poor people, so lazily and slotlifully even in this 
time of the direst need, thus merely hindering those who would 
fain give you their help ? " 5 

Here again he was promoting dissension, indeed, generally 
speaking, his exhortations were more a hindrance than a help ; 
again and again he insists on entangling himself anew in his 
polemics against Popery, and this in spite of the urgent needs of 
Germany. Led by the Pope, the Catholic Princes have become 

1 "Werke," ibid., p.. 197 -=121. 

2 Ibid-., p. 113 = 39. Even the taking of Rome in 1527 proves the 
proposition which the Pope had condemned. " Christ has determined 
to teach them to understand my Article, that Christians must not 
fight ; the condemned Article is now avenged " (p. 115 = 41). 

3 Ibid., p. 111-36. 

4 Ibid., p. 148 79. At the Diet of Spires in 1529. 
6 Ibid., p. 148-79. 


" our tyrants," who " imprison us, exercise compulsion, banish 
and burn us, behead and drown us and treat us worse than do 
the Turks." 1 

" In short, wherever we go, the devil, our real landlord, is at 
home. If we visit the Turk, we find the devil ; if we remain 
under the rule of the Pope, we fall into hell. There is nothing 
but devils on either side and everywhere." Thus it must be with 
mankind, he says, referring to 2 Timothy iii. 1, when the world 
reaches its end. 2 

In " what manner I advise war on the Turk, this my booklet 
shall be witness." 3 

Cochlseus, Luther s opponent, collected the contradictions 
contained in the latter s statements on the Turkish War, and 
published them in 1529 at Leipzig in the form of an amusing 
Dialogue. In this work one of the characters, Lutherus, attacks 
the war in Luther s own words, the second, Palinodus, defends 
it, again with Lutheran phrases, whilst an ambassador of King 
Ferdinand plays the part of the interested enquirer. The work 
instances fifteen "contradictions." 4 

Luther personally acted wisely, for it was of the utmost 
importance to him to destroy the impression that he stood 
in the way of united action against the Turks. This the 
Princes and Estates who protested at the Diet of Spires 
were far less willing to do. They east aside all scruple and 
openly refused to lend their assistance against the Turks 
unless the enactment against the religious innovations were 
rescinded. It is true that Vienna was then not yet in any 

i "Werke," p. 195- 118." This he continued to assert to the very end 

of his life. In 1545 he writes : "The Turk also seduces the world, 
but he does not sit m the Temple of God, does not take the name of 
Christ and St. Peter ... but this destroyer in our midst pretends to 
be a friend, wants to be styled father, and is twice as bad as the Turk 
Ihis is the abomination of desolation," etc. " Werke," Erl ed 
l lb?d 1 l9 V r ider daS Ba P stum zu Rom > vom Teuffel gestifft. " 

3 Ibid., p 148 = 79. It is impossible to concur in the unconditional 
praise usuay bestowed upon Luther by Protestants on account of his 
attitude m the midst of the Turkish peril. It was even said that ho gave 
expression m powerful language, and without any thought of personal 
interest, to what God required " of every Christian and every German " 

lion ? t?T rg H y N r i8 ft C rreCt t0 State " that the contradic 
tion with his later views was merely apparent " when he expressed 
himself at first as against the campaign. How real the contradiction 
is can be seen not only from the above and from what follows , but 

from Ins later recommendations based on religions motives in 
favour of the war Thus he says in the " Vermanunge zum Gebet 
wider den Turoken " of the year 1541 (see vol. v., xxxiv 2) We are 
Eri ec? 3 P > r 7oT G d S W rd and H1S Church >" etc ( Werke!" 

" Dialogus de bello contra Turcas, in aiitilogias Lutheri." 


pressing danger, though, on the other hand, news had been 
received at Spires that the Turkish fleet was cruising ofi the 
coasts of Sicily. It was only later on in the year, when the 
danger of Austria and for the German Princes began to 
increase that the Protesters showed signs of relenting. 
They also saw that, just then, their refusal to co-operate 
would be of no advantage to the new Church. Landgrave 
Philip of Hesse nevertheless persisted in his obstinate 
refusal to take any part in the defence of the Empire. 

Philip made several attempts to induce Brtick, 
Chancellor of the Saxon Electorate, and Luther, to bring 
their influence to bear on the Elector Johann Frederick so 
that he might take a similar line. Brack was sufficiently 
astute to avoid making any promise. Luther did not 
venture openly to refuse, though his position as principal 
theological adviser would have qualified him to explain to 
the Landgrave the error of his way. In his reply he merely 
finds fault with the "Priesthood," who "arc so obstinate 
and defiant and trust in the Emperor and in human aid. 
God s assistance against the Turks may be reckoned on, b 
if it came to the point, and he were obliged to speak to the 
Elector, he would " advise for the best," and, may God s 
Will be done. 1 

When the Turks, in order to avenge the defeat they 1 
suffered before the walls of Vienna, prepared for further 
attacks upon the West, frightful rumours began to spread 
throughout Germany, adding greatly to Luther s trouble of 
mind. At the Coburg, where he then was, gloomy fore 
bodings of the coming destruction of Germany at the hand 
of the Turk associated themselves with other disquieting 

In one of his first letters from the Coburg he says to Melanch- 
thon, Spalatin and Lindemann, who were then at the Diet 
Augsburg : "My whole soul begins to revolt against the lurks 
and Mohammed, for I see the intolerable wrath of Satan who 
rages so proudly against the souls and bodies of men. L shalJ 
pray and weep and never rest until heaven hears my cry. You 
[at Augsburg] are suffering persecution from our monsters at 
home but we have been chosen to witness and to suiter I. 
woes [viz. Catholicism arid the Turks] which are raging together 
and making their final onslaught. The onslaught itself proves 

i On December 16, 1529, " Briefwechsel," 7, p. 205. For Brack s 
reply, cp. Hassencamp, " Hessische Kirchengesch., 1, p. 215, 1. 


and foretells their approaching end and our salvation." 1 "All 
we now await is the coming of Christ," so he says on another 
occasion in one of his fits of fear ; " verily, I fear the Turk will 
traverse it [Germany] from end to end. . . . How often do I 
think of the plight of our German land, how often do I sweat, 
because it will not hear me." 2 

Lost in his eschatological dream and misled by his morbid 
apprehension, he wrote his Commentary on Ezechiel xxxviii.- 
xxxix., which was at once placed in the hands of the printer ; 
here again he finds the mischief to be wrought by the Turks at 
the end of the world as plainly foretold as in the prophecy of 
Daniel, the Commentary on which he had published shortly 
before. 3 

Everywhere anxiety reigned supreme, for there were 
lacking both preparedness and unanimity. The Catholic 
Princes of the Empire were not much better than the rest. 
Petty interests and jealousies outweighed in many instances 
a sense of the common needs. At Spires, for instance, Duke 
George of Saxony stipulated, as a condition of any promise 
of assistance, that he should be given precedence over both 
the Dukes of Bavaria. While the Catholic Estates agreed, 
at the Diet of Augsburg, to the grants for the war against 
the Turks, the Protestant Estates were not to be induced to 
give a favourable decision until the Emperor had sanctioned 
the so-called religious Peace of Nuremberg in 1532. 4 

In the summer of that same year Suleiman passed Buda- 
Pesth with 300,000 men. Thence he continued his march 
along the Danube with the intention of taking Vienna, this 
time at any cost, The Emperor Charles V. hurried in person 
to command the great army which was collecting near 
Vienna ; the Sultan was to be encountered and a decisive 
battle fought, Throughout the Empire the greatest en 
thusiasm for the cause prevailed. The Electoral Prince, 
Joachim of Brandenburg, was nominated by the Emperor 
to the command of the troops of the Saxon lowlands, 
since this country had not been unanimous in the choice of 
a Captain, probably owing to the religious dissensions. 

1 To Melanchthon, April 23, 1530, " Brief wechsel," 7, p. 303. At the 
end are greetings to the two other friends referred to. The latter 
would mform the Elector of the anxieties and prayers of the writer 
Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 396. 

3 On Ezechiel xxxviii.-xxxix., " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 219 ff 
Erl. ed., 41, p. 220 ff. Cp. KOstlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 200 
u- ur P r A - Westermann, "Die Tiirkenhilfe und die politisch- 
berg 191o! ^ aUf d6m Reichstft g zu Regensburg 1532," Heidel" 


The Protestant Prince Joachim requested a pious letter 
from Luther. This Luther sent him, promising him his 
prayers, and saying that " he would take the field in spirit 
with his dear Emperor Carol [as he now calls him], and 
fight under his banner against Satan and his members. ^ 
lie prayed God to bestow on them all " a glad spirit," 
granting them not to trust in their own strength, but to 
fight with the " fear of God, trusting in His Grace alone," 
and to ascribe the honour to heaven only ; hitherto there 
had been too much of the " spirit of defiance on both sides, 
and each party had gone into the field " without God," 
" which on every occasion had been worse for the people of 
God than for the enemy." Luther was evidently quite 
incapable of writing on the subject without his polemical 
ideas casting their shadow over his field of vision. 

The Turks did not venture to give battle, but, to the joy 
of the Christian army, retreated, laying waste Styria on 
their march. The Imperial troops were disbanded and an 
armistice was concluded between King Ferdinand and 
Suleiman. But in 15:36 the hostilities were renewed by the 
Turks ; Hungary was as good as lost, and in 1537 Ferdinand s 
army suffered in Slavonia the worst reverse, so at least 
Luther was informed, since the battle of Mohacz in 1520. On 
the strength of a rumour he attributed the misfortune to 
the treason of the Christian generals. In his conversations 
he set down the defeat to the account of Ferdinand, his 
zealous Catholic opponent ; he had permitted " such a 
great and powerful army to be led miserably into the jaws 
of the Turks." 1 Ferdinand, the Emperor s brother, was, of 
course, to blame for the unfortunate issue of the affair ; 
" hitherto the Turk has been provoked by Ferdinand and 
has been victorious ; when he comes unprovoked, then he 
will succumb and be defeated ; if the Papists commence 
the war they will be beaten." 2 "Luther saw in the mis 
fortune of King Ferdinand a just punishment on him 
and his friends who angered God and worshipped lies/"* 
He believed the cause of the success of the Turks to be 
the " great blasphemy of the Papists against God and the 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 389. Cp. " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, 
p. 405, concerning the news of an impending attack by the Turks in 
1538 : " I look upon it as a fresh invention of Ferdinand s ; he 
planning another tax such as he devised before." 

2 ibid., p. 401. 3 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 401. 


abominable sin against one and the other Table of the 
Commandments of God " ; also " the great contempt of 
God s Word amongst our own people." 1 

While the Protestant Princes and cities again showed a 
tendency to exploit the Turkish peril to the advantage of 
the religious innovations, Luther, in view of the needs of the 
time, pulled himself together and, when consulted, openly 
advised the Elector Johann Frederick to give his assistance 
against the Turks should this be asked of him. (May 29, 
1538. 2 ) 

He writes to the Elector: " Necessitas knows no leyem, 
and where there is necessity everything that is termed law, 
treaty or agreement ceases. . . . We must risk both good and 
evil with our brothers, like good comrades, as man and wife, 
father and children risk all things together." " Because many 
pious and honest people will also have to suffer," it was meet 
that the Prince should, " with a good conscience, render assistance 
in order to help and protect, not the tyrants, but the poor little 

Yet, immediately after, he deprives his counsel of most of its 
weight by declaring in fatalistic language, that there was never 
theless little to be hoped for, since God " had fashioned the rod 
which they will not be able to resist." 

He tells him concerning King Ferdinand, " that there was 
nothmg to be anticipated from him, but only trouble and inevit 
able misfortune " ; of the Catholics in general he assures him, 
that their " blasphemy " against the Evangel and their resistance 
their conscience and the known truth " made it impossible 
for them to escape a " great chastisement," since " God liveth 
and reigneth." 

Again, as though desirous of deterring the Elector on personal 
grounds, he reminds him that they (the " tyrants " as he calls 
the Princes of the Catholic party) "had not so far even requested 
assistance, and had not been willing to agree to peace though the 
need was so great." 3 He also thoughtfully alludes to the danger 
the tyrants, after having secured a victory with the help of 
the Protestants, should make use of their arms to overthrow the 
Evangel by force : " We must be wary lest, should our adversaries 
vanquish the Turks which I cannot believe they will they 
then turn their arms against us," " which they would gladly 
do ; but, he adds, " it rests in God s hands not in their desire, 
what they do to us, or what we are to suffer, as we have experi 
enced so far," for instance after the retreat of the Turks from 
Vienna when, "after all, nothing was undertaken against us " ; 

1 Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 393. 

* Ibid., 55, p. 202 (" Brief wechsel," 11, p. 370). 

Pnrf Ferdinand s reason for not seeking the Elector s help, see 

Enders on the letter referred to, p. 371. 


for the people would refuse to follow them in any attack upon the 

This letter, which has frequently been appealed to by 
Protestants as a proof of Luther s pure, unselfish patriotism, 
is a strange mixture of contradictory thoughts and emotions 
the product of a mind not entirely sure of its ground an 
influenced by all sorts of political considerations. Ol 
thing alone was the writer certain, viz. that the 
Rome must be fought against relentlessly. 

Luther s "Table-Talk" and occasional letters supply 
various traits to complete the above picture of his attitude 
towards the Turkish War. There we find polemical 
bursts interspersed with excellent admonitions to prayer, 
confutations of the errors of the Turks, and lamentations on 
the judgment of God as displayed in these wars. 

Luther on Turks and Papists. 

" If Germany had a master," he says very aptly on one occa 
sion, " it would be easy for us to withstand the Turk ; but, he 
continues, " the Papists are our worst foes, and would prefer to 
see Germany laid waste, and this the Turk is desirous of doing. 
The Papists are actually trying to establish the domination of 
the Turk. " The Pope," so he was informed, refuses, like 
King of France, to grant any assistance to the Emperor against 
the Turks. See the enormities of our day ! And yet this is the 
money [which the Pope refused to give] that the Pope, have been 
heaping up for so many long ages by means of their Indulge! 
"I greatly fear," he says to his friends, "the alliance between 
the Papists and the Turks by which they intend to bring us to 
ruin. God grant that my prophecy may prove false. . . . 1 
this enters the heads of the Papists, they will do it, for the malice 
of the devil is incredible . . . they will plot and scheme how to 
betray us and deliver us over into the hands ot the lurk. 

Meanwhile he believes that God is fighting for his cause by 
rendering the Turks victorious : "See how often the Papists with 
their hatred of the Evangel and their trust in the Emperor have 
been set at nought " ; they had reckoned on the destruction o 
the Lutherans by means of Charles the Fifth s victory over 
France, but, lo, " a great French army marches against the 
Emperor, Italy falls away and the Turk attacks Germany ; 1 

1 Cp., for instance, Mathesius, " Tischredeii," ed. Kroker p. 257 : 
" Pray ! Qitia non est spes amplius in armis, sed in Deo. 

is to beat the Turk, it will surely be the little children, who say the 
Our Father," etc. (1542). 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 394. 

To Amsdorf. June 13, 1532, " Briefweohsel, 9, p. 190 

* " Werke," Erl. ed., 02, p. 390. " Colloq.," ed. Bmdseil, 1, p. 400. 


moans that Cod has dispersed the proud. Ah, my good Cod, it is 
Thou Who hast done this thing ! " l On one occasion he declared : 
"In order that it might be discerned and felt that Cod was not 
with us in the war against the Turks, He has never inspired our 
Princes with sufficient courage and spirit earnestly to set about 
the Turkish War. . . . Nowhere is anything determined upon 
or carried out. . . . W T hy is this ? In order that my Article, 
which Pope Leo condemned, may remain ever true and uncon- 
demned." 2 

When, in the spring of 1532, Rome itself stood in fear of the 
Turk and many even took to flight, a letter reached Wittenberg 
announcing the consternation which prevailed there in the 
Eternal City. Then probably it was that Luther spoke the 
words which have been transmitted in both the Latin and German 
versions of the " Table-Talk " : " Should the Turk advance against 
Home, I shall not regret it. For we read in the Prophet Daniel : 
He shall fix his tabernacle between the seas upon a glorious and 
holy mountain. The two seas he imagined to be the Tyrrhenean 
and the Adriatic, whilst the holy mountain meant Rome, " for 
Rome is holy on account of the many Saints who are buried 
there. This is true, for the abomination which is the Pope, was 
I according to Daniel ix. 27] to take up its abode in the holy city. 
If the Turk reaches Rome, then the Last Day is certainly not far 
off." 3 

]t would even seem that it was his fervent desire to see Anti 
christ ousted by the Turk which allured him into the obscure 
region of biblical prophecy. 

Accordingly I hope for the end of the world. The Emperor 
Charles and Solimannus represent the last dregs of worldly 
domination. Christ will come, for Scripture knows nothing of 
any other monarchy, and the signs of the end of the world are 
already visible. "* " The rule of the Turk was foretold in Daniel 
and m the Apocalypse that the pious might riot allow themselves 
to be terrified at his greatness. The prophecy of Daniel gives us 
a splendid account of what is to happen till the end of the world, 
and describes clearly the reign of Antichrist and of the Turk." 5 
Finally, Luther is of opinion that at the end of the world both 

1 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 399. 

2 ; k Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 113 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 39. " On the 
xrkish War, 1529. "The angels are arming themselves for the 

tight and are determined to overthrow the Turk, together with the 

de?" 244 ^ them b th " lt0 ho11 " (1540) Mathesius " Tischre- 
^o ", ( r 1 llo( l"" ed - Bindseil, p. 395 seq. ; " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 
)ther instances of the hatred which caused him to compare 
lope with Turk are to be found in the "Table-Talk" ed. by Kroker 
according to the collection of Mathesius : " Propter crudelitatem, Philippus 
LMelanchthon] is hostile to the Turk ... but Philippus is not vet 
sufficiently angry with the Pope," p. 307 (1542-1543) " Deus hunc 
articulum (incarnationis) defendit hodie contra Turcam et vapam semper- 
que rmracuhs approbat," p. 94 (1540). 
" Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 401. 


must be united, viz. the Papal Antichrist and the Turk, because 
both had come into being together. About the time of the 
Emperor Phocas (f 610) Mohammed appeared on the scene of 
history, and at that very time too the Bishops of Rome arro 
gated to themselves the primacy over the whole Church. 1 

His pseudo-mysticism and factious temper thus continued to 
play an unmistakable part in his ideas concerning the Turk. 2 

" Against such might and power [the Turkish] we Germans 
behave like pot-bellied pigs, we idle about, gorge, tipple and 
gamble, and commit all kinds of wantonness and roguery, 
heedless of all the great and pitiful slaughters and defeats 
which our poor German soldiery have suffered." "And, 
because our German people are a wild and unruly race, 
half diabolical and half human, some even desire the advent 
and rule of the Turk." 4 

So scathing a description of the German people leads us 
to enquire into his attitude to German nationalism. 

5. Luther s Nationalism and Patriotism 

In spite of his outspoken criticism of their faults, Luther 
recognised and honoured the good qualities of the Germans. 
His denunciations at times were certainly rather severe : 
" We Germans," he says, " remain Germans, i.e. pigs and 
brutes " ; 5 and again, " We vile Germans are horrid swine " ; 
" for the most part such shocking pigs are we hopeless 
Germans that, neither modesty, discipline nor reason is to be 
found in us " ; 6 we are a " nation of barbarians," etc. 
Germans, according to him, abuse the gifts of God " worse 
than would hogs." 7 He is fond of using such language when 
censuring the corruption of morals which had arisen owing 
to abuse and disregard of the Evangel which he preached. 
Even where he attempts to explain his manner of proceeding, 
where, for instance, he tries to justify the delay in forming 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., G2, p. 391. 

2 This is the only possible explanation of the following prayer 
contained in the solemn service for the Ordination of Ministers which 
lie had drafted : " That Thou wouldst at length restrain and put an 
end to the wicked atrocities of the Pope and Mahometh and other 
factious spirits, who blaspheme Thy Name, destroy Thy Kingdom and 
resist Thy Will " (ibid., 64, p. 292). 3 Ibid., 62, p. 389. 

* " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 107 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 33. 
5 Ibid., 19, p. 631, in the writing " Ob Kriegsleutte auch ynn 
seligen Stande seyn kunden," 1526. 

G Ibid., 23, p. 149 ; Erl. ed., 30, p. 68. 
7 l Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 406 f. " Ti? 



the " Assembly of true Christians," he knows how to display 
to the worst advantage the unpleasing side of the German 
character. " We Germans arc a wild, savage, blustering 
people with whom it is not easy to do anything except in 
case of dire necessity." 1 

By the side of such spiteful explosions must be set the 
many kindlier and not unmerited testimonies Luther gives 
to the good qualities peculiar to the nation. 2 In various 
passages, more particularly in his "Table-Talk," he credits 
the Germans with perseverance and steadfastness in their 
undertakings, also with industry, contentment and dis 
interestedness ; they had not indeed the grace of the 
Italians, nor the eloquence of the French, but they were 
more honest and straightforward, and had more homely 
affection for their good old customs. He also believes that 
they had formerly been distinguished for great fidelity, 
"particularly in marriage," though unfortunately this was 
no longer the case. 3 

Much more instructive than any such expressions of 
opinion, favourable or unfavourable, is the attitude Luther 
adopted towards the political questions which concerned 
the existence, the unity and the greatness of his country. 

Here his religious standpoint induced him to take steps 
which a true German could only regret. We have already 
shown how the defence against the Turks was hampered by 
his action. He also appreciably degraded the Empire in 
the eyes of the Christian nations. 4 He not merely attacked 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 75 ; Erl. ed., 22, p. 231. "Deudsche 
Messe und Ordnung Gottisdiensts," 1526. In connection with Luther s 
favourite expression " We Germans," we may here remark that 
Luther s opponents at Leipzig spread the report that he was really of 
Bohemian origin. This they did when, in his Sermon on the Body of 
Christ, preached in 1519, he had demanded the general use of the 
chalice at communion, as did the Utraquists of Bohemia. As to this 
statement that " I was born in Bohemia, educated at Prague and 
instructed in Wiclif s writings," Luther replied in his writing "Erk- 
lerung etlicher Artickel yn seynem Sermon von dem heyligen Sacra 
ment, 1520, that this was a " piece of folly." " Werke," Weim. ed 
6, p. 81 f. 

2 Cp. " Tischreden." c. 76 : " Von Landen und Stadten," " Werke " 
Erl. ed., 62, p. 405 ff. Before this we read, ibid., p. 390 : " Germany 
has always been the best land and nation ; but what befell Trov will 
also befall her," etc. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 406. 

4 Cp. above p. 55, p. 71 f. and p. 77, the passages against the Emperor 
boasts so shamelessly of being the true, chief protector of the 


the authority of the Emperor and thereby the power which 
held together the Empire, by his criticism of the edicts of the 
Diets, by the spirit of diseord and party feeling he aroused 
amongst those who shared his opinions, and by his un 
measured and incessant abuse of the authorities, but, as 
years went by, he also came even to approve, as we have 
seen above (p. 53 ff.), of armed resistance to the Emperor 
and the Empire as something lawful, nay, praiseworthy, 
if undertaken on behalf of the new Evangel. 

" If it is lawful to defend ourselves against the Turk," he 
writes, " then it is still more lawful to do so against the Pope, 
who is even worse. Since the Emperor has associated him 
self with the defenders of the Pope, he must expect to be 
treated as his wickedness deserves." " Formerly I advised 
that we should yield to the Emperor [i.e. not undertake 
anything against him] ; even now I still say that we should 
yield to these heathen tyrants when they Pope, Cardinals, 
"Bishops, Emperor, etc. cease to appeal to the name of 
Christ, but acknowledge themselves to be what they really 
are, viz. slaves of Satan ; but if, in the name of Christ, 
they wish to stone Christians, then their stones will recoil 
on their own heads and they will incur the penalty attached 
to the Second Commandment. 3 

He saw " no difference between an assassin and the 
Emperor," should the latter proceed against his party a 
course which, as a matter of fact, was imposed on the 
Emperor by the very laws of the Empire. How, he asks, 
" can a man sacrifice his body and this poor life in a higher 
and more praiseworthy cause " " than in such worship 
[resistance by violence] for the saving of God s honour and 
the protection of poor Christendom, as David, Ezcchias and 
other holy kings and princes did ? " 

Countless examples from the Old Testament such as the 
above were always at his command for the purpose of 
illustrating his arguments. 

In the " Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen," in 1531, 

Christian faith," though he is but " a poor bag of worms/ and against 
his blind and hidden falsehoods. Other abuse of the Emperor, intei 
spersed with praise, will be quoted below (p. 104 f.). 

1 To Johami Ludicke, Pastor at Cottbus, on February 8, 1539, 
" Brief wechsel," 12, p. 87. Cp. above, p. 72 f. 

2 To the Elector Johann Frederick in January, 1539, 
wechsel," 12, p. 78. Cp. above, p. 70 f. 


he warns the Imperial power that God, " even though He 
Himself sit still, may well raise up a Judas Maehabeus " 
should the Imperial forces have recourse to arms against 
the " Evangelicals " ; their enemies would learn what their 
ancestors had learned in the war with Ziska and the Husites. 
Resistance to " blood-hounds " is, after all, mere self-defence. 
Whoever followed the Emperor against him and his party 
became guilty of all the Emperor s own " godless abomina 
tions." To instruct " his German people " on this matter 
was the object of the writing above referred to. 1 

" As I am the Prophet of the Germans this high-sounding 
title I am obliged to assume to please my asinine Papists 
I will act as a faithful teacher and warn my staunch Germans 
of the danger in which they stand." 2 

By thus coming forward as the divinely commissioned 
spokesman of the Germans, as the representative and 
prophet of the nation, he implicitly denied to those who did 
not follow his banner the right of being styled Germans. He 
was fond of professing, in his war on Pope and Church, to 
be the champion of the Germans against Rome s oppression. 
This enabled him to stir up the national feeling amongst 
those who followed him as his allies, and to win over the 
vacillating by means of the delusive watchword : " Germany 
against Italian tyranny." But, apart from the absolute 
want of justification for any such appeal to national pre 
judices, the assumption that Germany was wholly on his 
side was entirely wrong. He spoke merely in the name of a 
fraction of the German nation. To those who remained 
faithful to the Church and who, often at great costs to 
themselves, defended the heritage of their pious German 
forefathers, it was a grievous insult that German nationalism 
should thus be identified with the new faith and Church. 
^ Even at the present time in the German-speaking world 
Catholics stand to Protestants in the relation of two-fifths 
to three-fifths, and, if it would be a mistake to-day to regard 
Teutonism and Protestantism as synonymous a mistake 
only to be met with where deepest prejudice prevails still 
better founded were the complaints of Catholics in Luther s 
own time, that he should identify the new Saxon doctrines 

^ l " Werke," Woim. ed., 30, 3, p. 281 f., 300 f. ; Erl. eel., 25^, p. 10 f., 
2 Ibid, p. 290 = 22. 


with the German name and the interests of Germany as a 
whole. 1 

Even in the first years of his public career he appealed to 
his readers patriotism as against Rome. In 1518, before 
he had even thought of his aggressive pamphlet " To the 
German Nobility," he commended the German Princes for 
coming forward to protect the German people against the 
extortions of the Roman Curia ; " Prierias, Cajetan and Co. 
call us blockheads, simpletons, beasts and barbarians, and 
scoff at the patience with which we allow ourselves to be 
deceived." 2 In the following year, when this charge had 
already become one of his stock complaints, he summed it 
up thus : " We Germans, through our emperors, bestowed 
power and prestige on the Popes in olden days and, now, in 
return, we are forced to submit to being fleeced and 
plundered. 3 In the writing against Alveld, " Von dem 
Bapstum tzu Rome," a year later, he declared in words 
calculated to excite the ire of every Teuton, that in Rome 
they were determined to suck the last farthing out of the 
" tipsy Germans," as they termed them ; unless Princes 
and nobles defended themselves to the utmost the Italians 
would make of Germany a wilderness. " At Rome they 
even have a saying about us, viz. c We must milk the 
German fools of their cash the best way we can. " 4 

That Luther should have conducted his attacks on the 
Papacy on these lines was due in part to Ulrich von Hutten s 
influence. Theodore Kolde has rightly pointed out, that 
his acquaintance with Hutten s writings largely accounts 
for the utter virulence of Luther s assault on " Romanism." 5 
There is no doubt that the sparks of hate which emanated 
from this frivolous and revolutionary humanist contributed 
to kindle the somewhat peculiar patriotism of the Witten- 

1 Doctor Johann Mensing, O.P., a literary opponent of Luther s, in 
dedicating a polemical tract of 1526, defends the Catholics sense of 
patriotism, speaking of Luther as the " destroyer of our fair German 
land " (see " Luthers Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 478). Another Domini 
can, Thomas Rhadinus Todischus, in 1520, in the title of a work published 
at Rome, describes him as " violating the glory of the nation " (" nationis 
gloriam violans"). The latter work was attributed by Luther ard 
Melanchthon to Emser, who, however, repudiated the authorship. 
Cp. ibid., 1, p. 259. 

2 See vol. i., p. 403. 3 Ibid: 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 289 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 91. Cp. our vol. 
ii., p. 9 f. 

5 " Luthers Stellung zu Concil und Kirche," 1876, p. 69. 



berg professor. All the good that Rome had brought to 
Germany in the shape of Christian culture was lost to sight 
in the whirlwind of revolt heralded by Huttcn ; the financial 
oppression exercised by the Curia, and the opposition between 
German and Italian, were grossly exaggerated by the 

Specifically German elements played, however, their part 
in Luther s movement. The famous Gravamina Nationis 
Germanicce had been formulated before Luther began to 
exploit them. Another German element was the peculiar 
mysticism, viz. that of Tauler and the " Theologia Deutsch," 
on which, though he misapprehended much of it, Luther 
at the outset based his theories. German frankness and 
love of freedom also appeared to find their utterance in the 
plain and vigorous denunciations which the Monk of Witten 
berg addressed to high and low alike ; even his uncouth 
boldness found a strong echo in the national character. And 
yet it was not so much " national fellow-feeling," 1 to quote 
the expression of a Protestant author, which insured him 
such success, but other far more deeply seated causes, some 
of which will be touched upon later, while others have 
already been discussed. 

It is, however, noteworthy that this " Prophet of the 
Germans," when speaking to the nation he was so fond of 
calling his own, did not scruple to predict for it the gloomiest 

A dark pessimism broods over Luther s spirit almost 
constantly whenever he speaks of the years awaiting 
Germany ; he sees the people, owing to his innovations, 
confronted Avith disastrous civil wars, split up into endless 
and perpetually increasing sects and thus brought face to 
face with hopeless moral degradation. His cry is. Let the 
Empire dissolve, " Let Germany perish." " Let the world 
fall into ruins." 2 He consoles himself with the reflection 
that Christ, when founding His Church, had foreseen and 
sanctioned the inevitable destruction of all hostile powers, 
of Judaism and even of the Roman Empire. It was in the 

1 H. Meltzer, "Luther als deutscher Mann," Tubingen, 1905, 
p. 56. 

2 Cp. above, p. 45 f. " Let things take their course and do their 
worst, whether it be war or rebellion, as God s anger may decree." 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 279; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 8, " Warnunge 
an seine lieben Deudschen," 1531. 


nature of the Gospel to triumph by the destruction of all 
that withstood it. It was certainly a misfortune, Luther 
admits, that the wickedness of the Germans, every day 
growing worse, should be the cause of this ruin. " I am 
very hopeless about Germany now that she has harboured 
within her walls those real Turks and devils, viz. avarice, 
usury, tyranny, dissensions and this Lernean serpent of envy 
and malice which has entangled the nobles, the Court, every 
Rathaus, town and village, to say nothing of the contempt 
for the Divine Word and unprecedented ingratitude 
[towards the new Evangel]." This is how he wrote to 
Lauterbach. 1 Writing to Jonas, he declared : " No im 
provement need be looked for in Germany whether the 
realm be in the hands of the Turk or in our own, for the 
only aim of the nobility and Princes is how they can enslave 
Germany and suck the people dry and make everything 
their very own." 2 

The lack of any real national feeling among the Princes 
was another element which caused him anxiety. Yet he 
himself had done as much as any to further the spread of 
that " particularism " which to a great extent had replaced 
the national German ideal ; he had unduly exalted the 
rights of the petty sovereigns by giving them the spiritual 
privileges and property of the Church, and he had confirmed 
them in their efforts to render themselves entirely inde 
pendent of the Emperor and to establish themselves as 
despots within their own territories. Since the unhappy 
war of 1525 the peasantry and lower classes were convinced 
that no remedy was to be found in religion for the 
amelioration of their social condition, and had come to hate 
both Luther and the lords, because they believed both to 
have been instrumental in increasing their burdens. The 
other classes, instead of thanking him for furthering the 
German cause, also complained of having had to suffer on 
his account. In this connection we may mention the 

1 On November 10, 1541, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 407 : 
" Ego pcene de Germania desperavi," etc. Of this passage we read 
in Kostlin-Kawerau (2, p. 572) : " The exaltation which had been 
experienced by every grade of the nation during the first period of the 
Reformation had, as a matter of fact, largely died out, and now the 
lowest motives held sway." 

2 On March 7, 1543, ibid., p. 548 : " Neque bene habebit Germania, 
swe regnet Turca sive noatrates" etc. 


grievance of the mercantile community, Luther having 
deemed it necessary to denounce as morally dangerous any 
oversea trade. 1 It was also a grievous blow to education 
and learning in Germany, when, owing to the storm which 
Luther let loose, the Universities were condemned to a long 
period of enforced inactivity. 2 He himself professed that 
his particular mission was to awaken interest in the Bible, 
not to promote learning ; yet Germans owe him small thanks 
for opposing as he did the discoveries of the famous German 
Canon of Frauenburg, Niklas Koppernigk (Copernicus), and 
for describing the founder of modern astronomy as a fool 
who wished to upset all the previous science of the heavens. 3 

Whilst showing himself ultra- conservative where good 
and useful progress in secular matters was concerned, he, 
on the other hand, scrupled not to sacrifice the real and 
vital jnterests of his nation in the question of public ecclesi 
astical conditions by his want of conservatism and his 
revolutionary innovations. True conservatism would have 
endeavoured to protect the German commonwealth and to 
preserve it from disaster by a strict guard over the good and 
tried elements on which it rested, more particularly over 
unchangeable dogma. The wilful destruction of the heritage, 
social, religious and learned, contributed to by countless 
generations of devout forebears ever since the time of 
St. Boniface, at the expense of untold toil and self-sacrifice, 
can certainly not be described as patriotic on the part of 
a German. At any rate, it can never have occurred to any 
one seriously to expect that those Germans whose views on 
religion were not those of Luther should have taken his 
view of the duty of a patriot. 

The main fact remains that Luther s action drove a 
wedge into the unity of the German nation. Wherever his 
spirit prevailed which was by no means the case in every 
place which to some extent came under his influence 
there also prevailed prejudice, suspicion and mistrust against 
all non-Lutherans, rendering difficult any co-operation for 
the welfare of the fatherland. 

In discussing a recent work which extols Luther as a 
" true German " a learned Protestant gives it as his opinion, 
that, however much one may be inclined to exalt his patriot - 

1 See vol. v., xxxv., 6. 

2 Ibid., xxxv., 3. 3 Ibid. 


ism, it must, nevertheless, be allowed that Luther cherished 
a sort of indifference to the vital interests of his nation ; his 
"religious concentration" made him less mindful of true 
patriotism ; this our author excuses by the remark : 
"Justice and truth were more to him than home and 
people." Luther, it is also said, " did not clearly point out 
the independent, ethical value of a national feeling, just as 
he omitted to insist at all clearly on the reaction of the 
ethical upon the religious." 1 

On the other hand, however, his ways and feelings are 
often represented as the " very type and model of the true 
German." 2 Nor is this view to be found among Protestants 
only, for Ignatius von Dollinger adopted it in later life, 
when he saw fit to abandon his previous position. 

Before this, in 1851, in his Sketch of Luther, he had indeed 
said, concerning his patriotism, that, in his handling of the 
language and the use he made of the peculiarities of his country 
men, " he possessed a wonderful gift of charming his hearers, 
and that his power as a popular orator was based on an accurate 
knowledge and appreciation of the foibles of the German national 
character." 3 In 1861, he wrote in another work: "Luther is 
the most powerful demagogue and the most popular character 
that Germany has ever possessed." " From the mind of this 
man, the greatest German of his day, sprang the Protestant 
faith. Before the ascendency and creative energy of this mind, 
the more aspiring and vigorous portion of the nation humbly 
and trustfully bent the knee. In him, who so well united in 
himself intellect and force, they recognised their master ; in his 
ideas they lived ; to them lie seemed the hero in whom the nation 
with all its peculiarities was embodied. They admired him, they 
surrendered themselves to him because they believed they had 
found in him their ideal, and because they found in his writings 
their own most intimate feelings, only expressed more clearly, 
more eloquently and more powerfully than they themselves 
were capable of doing. Thus Luther s name is to Germany not 
merely that of a distinguished man, but the very embodiment 
of a pregnant period in national life, the centre of a new circle of 
ideas and the most concise expression of those religious and 
ethical views amidst which the German spirit moved, and the 
powerful influence of which not even those \vlio were averse to 
them could altogether escape." 4 

Here special stress is laid on Luther s power over " the more 

1 "Deutsche Literaturztg.," 1905, No. 10, Sclieel s Review of H. 
Meltzer s " Luther als deutscher Mann " (see above, p. 98, n. 1). 

2 Meltzer, ibid., 56. 

" Luther, erne Skizzc," p. 57. 
4 " Kirche mid Kircheii, Papsttum und Kirchenstaat," p. 10, 380 f. 


aspiring Germans " who followed him, i.e. over the Protestant 
portion of the nation. Elsewhere, however, in 1872, Bellinger 
brings under Luther s irresistible spell " his time and his people," 
i.e. the whole of Germany, quite regardless of the fact that the 
larger portion still remained Catholic. " Luther s overpowering 
mind and extraordinary versatility made him the man of his 
time and of his people ; there never was a German who under 
stood his people so well, or who in turn was so thoroughly under 
stood, yea, drunk in, by the people, as this Monk of Wittenberg. 
The mind and spirit of the German people were in his hands like 
a harp in the hands of the musician. For had he not bestowed 
upon them more than ever one man had given to his people since 
the dawn of Christianity ? A new language, popular handbooks, 
a German Bible, and his hymns. He alone impressed upon the 
German language and the German spirit alike his own imperish 
able seal, so that even those amongst us who abhor him from the 
bottom of our hearts as the mighty heresiarch who seduced the 
German nation cannot help speaking with his words and thinking 
with his thoughts. Yet, even more powerful than this Titan of 
the intellectual sphere, was the longing of the German nation 
for freedom from the bonds of a corrupt ecclesiasticism." 1 

The change in Bellinger s conception of Luther which is here 
apparent was not simply due to his personal antagonism to the 
Vatican Council ; it is closely connected with his then efforts, 
proclaimed even in the very title of the Lectures in question : 
" Reunion of the Christian Churches " ; for this reunion Bellinger 
hoped to be able to pave the way without the assistance of, and 
even in opposition to, the Roman Catholic Church. The fact is, 
however, that in the above passages the domination which Luther 
exercised over those who had fallen away with him has been 
made far too much of, otherwise how can we explain Luther s own 
incessant complaints regarding the small response to the preaching 
of his new Evangel ? The production of a schism by his vehement 
and forceful oratory was one thing ; vigorous direction and 
leadership in the task of religious reconstruction was quite a 
different matter. 

It is not our intention here to embark upon a controversy 

" Vortriige iiber die Wiedervereinigung der clir. Kirchen," 
authentic edition, 1888, p. 53 f. Cp. E. Michael, " Dollinger, 3 " p. 
230 ft . Michael rightly quotes the following striking passage of the 
earlier Dollinger as descriptive of the attitude of the Church towards 
Luther : " May not the time come, nay, be already at hand, when 
[Protestant] preachers and theologians will take a calmer view of 
things and realise that the Catholic Church in Germany only did what 
she could not avoid doing ? All the reproaches and charges made 
against this Church amount in fine to this, that she rejected the 
demand made of her in the name of the Reformation to break with 
her past, that she remained faithful to her traditions, that she persisted 
in developing along the lines originally laid down, and resolved to 
fulfil her task while holding fast to the uninterrupted continuity of her 
ecclesiastical life and her connection with the other portions of the 
Church " (" Kirclie und Kircheii," p. 490). 


on such an opinion concerning Luther s German influence 
as that here advanced by Dollinger. The present work 
will, in due course, treat of Luther s posthumous influence 
on German culture and the German language, of his famous 
German Bible, and of his hymnological work (sec vol. v., 
xxxiv., xxxv.), when we shall have occasion to show the true 
value to be accorded to such statements. As they stand, 
our last quotations from Dollinger merely constitute a part 
of the legend which grew up long since around the memory 
of the Wittenberg professor. 

It must certainly be admitted, that Luther s powerful 
language is grounded on a lively and clear comprehension 
of German ways of thought and German modes of ex 
pression ; his command of language and his power for 
trenchant description, which were the result of his character, 
of his intercourse with the common people and his talent 
for noting their familiar ways of speech, were rare qualities. 
He left in his writings much that served as a model to later 
Germans. Of his translation of the Bible in particular we 
may say, with Janssen, that, although Luther cannot be 
termed the actual founder of the new High-German, yet 
" his deserts as regards the development of the German 
language are great," especially in the matter of " syntax and 
styfe. In the last respect no one of any insight will wish to 
dispute the service which Luther rendered." The force 
and expression of the popular speech was hit off by Luther 
in a masterly manner in his Bible translations." 1 

Those Germans, who had been won over to the new faith 
and had become Luther s faithful followers, found in the 
instructions written in his own popular vein, particularly in 
those on the Bible, enlightenment and edification, in many 
cases, no doubt, much to their advantage. Writing for the 
benefit of this circle, the versatile author, in his ethical 
works his controversial ones are not here under considera 
tion deals with countless other subjects outside the range 
of biblical teaching ; here his manner owes its power to the 
fact that he speaks in tones caught from the lips of the 
people themselves. Thus, for instance, when he discovers 
the blots which sully the nation : luxury in dress, the 
avarice of the rich, the " miserliness and hoarding " of the 
peasants. Or when he tells unpleasant truths to the " great 
1 Janssen, " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.), 14, p. 408 f. 


fops," the nobles, concerning their despotic and arrogant 
behaviour. Or, again, when he raises his voice in condemna 
tion of the neglect of education, or to reprove excessive 
drinking, or when, to mention a special case, he paints in lurid 
and amusing colours the slothfulness and utter carelessness 
of the Germans after having achieved any success in war 
against the Turks. His gift of humour always stood him in 
good stead, and his love of extravagant phraseology and 
imagery and of incisive rhetoric was of the greatest service 
to him in his dealings with the people, for both appealed 
strongly to German taste. Nor must we forget his pro 
ficiency in the effective application of German proverbs 
a collection of proverbs in his own handwriting is still extant 
and has recently been published nor his familiarity with 
German folk-lore and ballads, nor finally the wonderful gift 
which served to tranquillise many who were still undecided 
and wavering, viz. the boundless assurance and unshakable 
confidence with which he could advance even the most 
novel and startling opinions. The Germans of that day 
loved weight and power, and a strong man could not fail to 
impress them, hence, for those who were not restrained by 
obedience to the Church, Luther undoubtedly seemed a 
real chip of the old German block. 

A single passage, one against usurers, will serve to show with 
what energy this man of the people could raise his voice, to the 
joy of the many who groaned under the burden. " Ah, how 
securely the usurer lives and rages as though he himself were 
God and Lord of the whole land ; no one dares to resist him. 
And now that I write against them these saintly usurers scoff at 
me and say : Luther doesn t know what usury is ; let him read 
his Matthew and his Psalter. But I preach Christ and my word 
is the Word of God, and of this I am well assured, that you 
accursed usurers shall be taught either by the Turk or by some 
)ther tool of God s wrath, that Luther really knew and under 
stood what usury was. At any rate, my warning is worth a 
sterling gulden." 1 

On the very same page he vents his anger against the supreme 

Imperial Court of Justice, because, " in matters pertaining to 

the Gospel and the Church," its sentences did not accord with 

shan t be a hypocrite, but shall speak the truth and say : 

3 what a devil s strumpet reigns in the Imperial Kammer- 
gericht, winch ought to be a heavenly jewel in the German land 
the one consolation of all who suffer injustice." 

denTurtken e ; " ^ ^ ^ P< ?7> ^ " Vennanun S zum Ge ^t wider 


Particularly effective was his incitement of the people to hate 
Popery. " We Germans must remain Germans and the Pope s 
own donkeys and victims, even though we are brayed in the 
mortar like sodden barley, as Solomon says (Prov. xxvii. 22) , 
we stick fast in our folly. No complaints, no instruction, no 
beseeching, no imploring, not even our own daily experience oj 
how we have been fleeced and devoured opens our eyes. 
" The Emperor and the Princes," he had already said, openly 
go about telling lies of us " ; 2 " pigs and donkeys mad and 
tipsy Princes," such are the usual epithets with which he spic 
his language here and later. M. ^ f v,- 

" Out of deep sympathy for us poor Germans 3 it is that 
ventures to speak thus in the name of all. 

i " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 254 ; Erl. ed., 24*, p. 222. " Zwey 
kevserliche . . Gepott," 1524. 

In the same way that he here abuses the Emperor, so he alsc 
knows how to bestow praise upon him ; for instance, in the otnc 
writing referred to above (p. 89) to the Electoral Prince Joachim of 
Brandenburg and in his " Warnunge an seme lieben Deudschen 
where lie declares, strangely enough, that our beloved Emperor 
Carol " has shown himself hitherto, and last of all at the Diet _ 
Augsburg in 1530, such, that he has won the respect and love of t 
whole world and deserves that no trouble should befall him and that 
our people should only speak in praise of his Imperial virtue 
Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 291 ; Erl. ed, 25*, p. 23), and yet, even there m 
consequence of his edict against the new faith at the Diet of Augsburg, 
he puts the Emperor with the Pope, as the originators of a resolution 
which " must prove an eternal blot upon all the Princes and the whole 
Empire, and make us Germans blush for shame before God and the 
whole world," so that " even the Turk, the Tattars and Moscobites 
despise us." " Who under the whole expanse of heaven wil 
future fear us or think well of us when they hear that we allow o 
selves to be hoaxed, mocked, treated as children, as fools nay, ever 
as clods and blocks by the cursed Pope and his tools [who hold the 
Emperor in leading strings]? . . . Every German may well regret 
that he was born a German and is called a German (ibid., p. 28a 
On the strength of the words quoted above in praise of the &mper< 
we find Luther credited in Protestant works of history with the old, 
loyal sentiments of a good, simple German for his Emperor, nay, 
even with " the language of charity which according to Holy Scripture 
believes all things, hopes all things." And yet Luther in his letters tc 
his confidential friends spoke after this of Charles V. m the followm. 
terms " The Emperor was, is, and shall ever remain a servant ot the 
servants of the devil," and the worst of it is, that he " lends the devil 
his services knowingly " (to Jonas, etc, March or April, 1540, Brieie, 
ed De Wette, 5, p. 275). " God s wrath has come upon him and his 
friends. ... We have prayed enough for him, if he does not want a 
blessing then let him take our curse." He accuses him of hypocrisy 
(" purua hypocrita ") and of breach of faith with the Turks after his stay 
at Vienna ; he had swallowed up the Bishopric of Liege and intended 
to do the same with all the bishoprics along the Rhine (to Melanchthon, 
June 17, 1541, " Briefe," 5, p. 370). " I suspect the 
miscreant ( quod sit nequam ) and his brother Ferdinand 
able bounder" (to Amsdorf, October 21, 1545, " Briefe, 5, p. 
3 Commencement of the work : " Zwey keyserhche Gepott, 
" Werke," Weim. ed, 15, p. 254 ; Erl. ed, 24 2 , p. 221. 

Emperor is a 
is an abomin- 


He boldly holds up his Evangel as the German preaching par 
excellence. He declares : "I seek the welfare and salvation of 
you Germans." 1 "We Germans have heard the true Word of 
God for many years, by which means God, the Father of all Mercy, 
has enlightened us and called us from the horrible abominations 
of the Papal darkness and idolatry into His holy light and 
Kingdom. But with what gratitude and honesty we have 
accepted and practised it, it is terrible to contemplate." 

Formerly, he says, we filled every corner with idolatries such 
as Masses, Veneration of the Saints, and good works, but now 
we persecute the dear Word, so that it would not be surprising 
should God flood Germany, not only with Turks, but with real 
devils ; indeed, it is a wonder He has not done so already. 2 

However small the hope was of any improvement resulting 
from his preaching, he fomented the incipient schism by such 
words as these : " They [the Romans] have always abused our 
simplicity by their wantonness and tyranny ; they call us mad 
Germans, who allow themselves to be hoaxed and made fools of. 
. . . We are supposed to have an Empire, but it is the Pope who 
has our possessions, honour, body, soul and everything else. . . . 
Thus the Pope feeds on the kernel and we nibble at the empty 
shells." 3 

Finally, there are some who select certain traits of 
Luther s character in order to represent him as the type of 
a true German. Such specifically German characteristics 
were certainly not lacking in Luther ; it would be strange, 
indeed, were this not the case in a man of German stock, 
hailing from the lower class and who was always in close 
touch with his compatriots. Luther was inured to fatigue, 
simple in his appearance and habits, persevering and endur 
ing ; in intercourse with his friends he was frank, hearty 
and unaffected ; with them he was sympathetic, amiable 
and fond of a joke ; he did not, however, shrink from telling 
them the truth even when thereby offence might be given ; 
towards the Princes who were well-disposed to him and his 
party he behaved -with an easy freedom of manner, not 
cringingly or with any exaggerated deference. In a sense 
all these are German traits. 4 But many of these qualities, 

! " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 291 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 22 in the 
Warnunge " referred to above. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 75. " Vermanunge zum Gebet wider 
den Turcken. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., G. p. 463 f ; Erl. ed., 21, p. 352 f. " An 
den christl. Adel." 

4 It will not be possible to eater one by one into the somewhat 
remarkable reasons assigned in the popular Protestant biographies of 
Luther as to why Luther should be regarded as the type of the German 


albeit good in themselves, owing to his public controversy, 
assumed a very unpleasant character. His perseverance 
degenerated into obstinacy and defiance, his laborious 
endurance into a passionate activity which overtaxed his 
powers, and he became combative and quarrelsome and 
found his greatest pleasure in the discomfiture of his 
opponents; his frankness made Avay for the coarsest 
criticism. The anger against the Church which carried him 
along found expression in the worst sorts of insults, and, 
when his violence had aroused bitter feelings, he believed, 
or at least alleged, he was merely acting in the interests of 
uprightness and love of truth. Had he preserved his 
heritage of good German qualities, perfected them and 
devoted them to the service of a better cause, he might 
have become the acknowledged spokesman of all Germans 
everywhere. He could have branded vice and instilled into 
the hearts of his countrymen the love of virtue more strongly 
and effectively than even Gcilcr of Kaysersberg ; in sea 
soned and effective satire on matters of morals he would 

character. AVe there read, that the stamp of the German character is 
to be found in the fact that he " always acted upon impulse wnicti 
seems to be based on the correct view of Luther as a child olimpuJ 
who allowed himself to be carried away by his feelings. The i. 
reason is less clear, viz. that he was " A German through and through 
because he sought for the roots of all life, of the family the race, the 
State and civilisation, in personality as directly determined by feeling. 
Reference is frequently made to Luther s frank and upright charact. 
and to his undaunted love of truth. The facts bearing upon this point 
already adduced, or to be dealt with in chapter xxn. of the prese 
work (vol iv.), dispense us from treating of this matter here. 
Luther s claim to being a typical German on his manner of speech is 
run the risk of bringing Germans into disrepute, if we recall the r 
invective in which he often indulges and which he employs when, as h< 
says, he is speaking plain German to his opponents. 
German way of speaking." he constantly repeats after explosions 
anger and vulgar abuse. This, for instance, is the way in which he 
gives the " Romans a German answer." On one occasion he describe 
in a repulsive manner how the strumpet church of the Pope behaves 
"She plays the whore with everyone," is an "apostate, runaway, 
wedded whore, a house- whore, a bed- whore " ; compared with her 
" light women are holy, for she is the devil s own whore, who makes 
of many of the faithful virgins of Christ, born in baptism, arch-whores. 
This is what I call plain German speaking, and you and everyone can 
understand what I mean." On the same page he continues 
has happened to them [the Papists] according to the proverb : the d 
has returned to his vomit and the sow that was washed to wallow m 
the mire. That is what you are, and what I once was. There you have 
your new, apostate, runaway churches described for you m^ plain 
German." " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 4(3. " Wider Hans Worst, 1541. 


have far excelled Sebastian Brant and Thomas Murner ; 
in depth of feeling and sympathetic expression he could have 
rivalled Bcrtold of llatisbon, and his homely ways would 
have qualified him to enforce the Christian precepts amongst 
all the grades and conditions of German life even more 
effectively than any previous preacher. 



1. Growth of Luther s Idea of his Divine Mission 
WHEREAS the most zealous of Luther s earliest pupils 
and followers outvied one another in depicting their 
master as the messenger of God, who had come 
before the world equipped with revelations from on 
high, the tendency of later Protestantism has been, more 
and more, to reduce Luther, so to speak, to a merely 
natural level, and to represent him as a hero indeed, 
but as one inspired by merely human motives. An earlier 
generation exalted him to mystical regions, and, being 
nearer him in point of time and therefore knowing him 
better, grasped the fact that he was dominated by a certain 
supernaturalism. Many later and more recent writers, on 
the other hand, have preferred to square their conception of 
his personality with their own liberal views on religion. 
They hail Luther as the champion of free thought and 
therefore as the founder of modern intellectual life. What 
he discovered in his struggles with himself by reflection and 
pious meditation, that, they say, he bequeathed to posterity 
without insisting upon the immutability of his ideas or 
claiming for them any infallibility. His only permanent 
work, his real legacy to posterity, was a negative one, 
viz. the breach with Popery, which he consummated, thanks 
to his extraordinary powers. 

This is, however, from the religious standpoint, to attenu 
ate Luther s figure as it appears in history, notwithstanding 
the tribute paid to his talents. 

If he is not the "messenger of God," whose doctrines, 
inspired from on high, the world was bound to accept, 
then he ceases to be Luther, for it was from his supernatural 
estimate of himself that he drew all his strength and defiance. 



Force him to quit the dim, mystical heights from which he 
fancies he exercises his sway, and his claim on the faith of 
mankind becomes inexplicable and he himself an enigma. 

It has been pointed out above, how Luther gradually 
reached the conviction that he had received his doctrine 
by a special revelation, with the Divine mission to com 
municate it to the world and to reform the Church (vol. ii., 
p. 92 f.). The conviction, that, as he declares, " the Holy 
Ghost had revealed the Scriptures " to him culminated in 
that personal assurance of salvation which was suddenly 
vouchsafed to him in the Tower. 1 

It will repay us to examine more closely the nature of this 
idea, and its manifestations, now that we have the mature 
man before us. 

The founder of the new Church has reached a period 
when he no longer scruples to speak of the " revelations " 
which had been made to him, and which he is compelled to 
proclaim.- " By His Grace," he says, " God has revealed this 
doctrine to me." 2 " I have it by revelation . . . that will 
I not deny." 3 Of his mission he assures us : " By God s 
revelation I am called to be a sort of antipope " ; 4 of his 
chief dogma, he will have it that " the Holy Ghost bestowed 
it upon me," 5 and declares that " under pain of the curse of 
eternal reprobation " he had been " instructed ( intermi- 
natum ) not to doubt of it in any way . 6 Of this he solemnly 
assured the Elector Frederick in a letter written in 1522 : 
" Concerning my cause I would say : Your Electoral High 
ness is aware, or, if not aware, is hereby apprised of the fact, 
that I received the Evangel, not from man, but from heaven 

1 Cp. vol. i., p. 396 f., his statements concerning the incident in the 
Tower. See also vol. i., p. 166 ff., and p. 280 ff. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 20, p. 674. " Hanc doctrinam mihi (Deus) 
revelavit per gratiam suam" In 1527. 

3 Cochlseus in his account (June 12, 1521) of his conversation with 
Luther at Worms : " Est mihi revelatum," etc. In Enders reprint, 
"Luthers Brief wechsel," 3, p. 176; in the new edition by Greving 

" Flugschriften aus der Reformationszeit," 4, 3, 1910), p. 19. 

" Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 23 (a. 1523). 

" Lauterbachs Tagebuch," p. 81, n. 

6 Khummer in " Lauterbachs Tagebuch," p. 62, n. : " Doctor 
Martinus Luther us indignus sum, sed dignus fui creari . . . redimi . . . 
doceri a fdio Dei et Spiritu sancto, fui (dignus) cui ministerium verbi 
crederetur, fui qui pro eo tanta paterer, fui qui in tot malis servarer, fui 
cui prcvciperetur ista credere, fui cui sub ceternce irce maledictione 
interminaretur, ne ullo modo de us dubitarem." Cp. " Briefe," 5 p 324 
and 6, p. 520, n. 6. 


alone through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that I might well 
subscribe myself and boast of being a minister and evangelist 
as indeed, I shall do for the future/ 1 

It is because he has received the Word of God direct from 
on high that he is so firm. " God s Word," he cries, " is 
above" every thing to me ; I have the Divine Majesty on my 
side therefore I care not in the least though a thousand 
Augustines, or a thousand Harry-Churches [Henry VIII. of 
England was then still a Catholic] should be against me ; ] 
am quite certain that the true Church holds fast with me 
to God s Word, and leaves it to the Harry-Churches to 
depend on the words of men."- 

There are many passages in which he merely claims to 
have been enlightened in his ruminations and labours 
and thus led to embrace the real, saving truth; less 
frequently do we hear of any actual, sudden inspiration 
from above. Where he does claim this most distinctly is 
in the matter of the discovery of his chief doctrine, viz. 
assurance of salvation by justifying faith, vouchsafed to 
him in the Tower of the Wittenberg monastery. The fact 
that his mode of expression varies may be explained not 
merely by his own involuntary wavering, but by the very 
difficulty of imparting his favourite doctrine to others. His 
frame of mind, outward circumstances and the character of 
his hearers or readers were the cause of his choice of words. 
With his friends, for instance, more particularly the younger 
ones, and likewise in his sermons at Wittenberg, he was fond 
of laying stress on what he had once said to the lawyers 
when they molested him with Canon Law : They shall 
respect our teaching, which is the Word of God spoken by 
the Holy Ghost through our lips," 3 When speaking to 
larger audiences, on the other hand, he does not as a rule 
claim more than a gradual, inner enlightenment by God, 
which indeed partakes of the nature of a revelation, but to 
which he was led by his work and study and inward ex 
perience. In the presence of the fanatics he became, after 
1524, more cautious in his claims, owing to the similar ones 
made on their own behalf by these sectarians. 

1 On March 5, 1522, at Borna, on the journey from the Wartburg to 
Wittenberg. " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 106 (Briefwechsel," 3, p. 296). 

2 " Werke," Weim, ed., 10, 2, p. 256 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 379, in the 
work : " Antwort auff Konig Henrichs Buch," 1522. 

3 "Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 276. "Table-Talk." 


Yet the idea of an assurance born of God lies at the* bottom 
of all his statements. 

He worked himself into this belief until it became part of 
his nature. 1 He had to face many doubts and scruples, but 
he overcame them, and, in the latter years of his life, we 
hear little of any such. His struggle with these doubts, 
which clearly betray the faulty basis of his conviction, will 
be dealt with elsewhere. 2 

" I am certain and am determined to feel so." Expres 
sions such as this are not seldom to be met with in Luther s 
letters and writings. 3 

An almost appalling strength of will lurks behind such 
assurances. Indeed, what impels him seems to savour more 
of self-suggestion than of inward experience. To the objec 
tions brought forward by his adversaries he frequently 
enough merely opposes his "certainty"; behind this 
he endeavours to conceal the defects of his proofs from 
Scripture, and his inability to reply to the reasons urged 
against him. His determination to find conviction consti 
tutes one of Luther s salient psychological characteristics ; 
of the Titanic strength at his disposal he made proof first 
and foremost in his own case. 

Luther also succeeded in inducing in himself a pseudo- 
mystic mood in which he fancied himself acting in every 
thing conformably with a Divine mission, everywhere 
specially guided and protected as beseemed a messenger of 

For instance, he says that he wrote the pamphlet against 
the seditious peasants in obedience to a Divine command ; 
" therefore my little book is right and will always be so, 
though all the world should be incensed at it." 4 

"It is the Lord Who has done this," he had declared of 
the Peasant Rising when he recognised in it elements favour 
able to his cause ; "It is the Lord Who has done this and 
Who conceals these menaces and dangers from the eyes of 
the Princes, and will even bring it about Himself by means 
of their blindness and violence." That the Princes are 

I See vol. vi., xxxvi. 4. 2 See vol> v>> xxxii 

? bee, tor instance, " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 641 : " Opp lat 
var., 7, p. 162 seq. " De servo arbitrio," 1525. 

4 Cp. Janssen, "Hist, of the German People" (Ens. Trans) 4 
p. 314. Cp. our vol. ii., p. 208 


threatened with destruction, that " I firmly believe the 
Spirit proclaims through me." 1 

Later on he was no less sure that he could foresee in the 
Spirit the coming outbreak of a religious war in Germany ; 
only the prayers which he who had the Divine interests 
so much at heart offered, could avail to stave off the war ; 
at least the delay was mainly the result of this prayer : "I 
am assured that God really hearkens to my prayer, and I 
know that so long as I live there will be no war in Germany." 

Never does he tire of declaring that the misfortunes and 
deaths which his foes have to deplore are the result of the 
intervention of heaven 011 behalf of his cause. 2 lie was con 
vinced that he had repeatedly been cured in sickness and 
saved from death by Christ, by Him, as he says in 1534, 
" in Whose faith I commenced all this and carried it through, 
to the admiration even of my opponents." 3 He, " one of the 
Apostles and Evangelists of Germany, is," so he proclaims 
in 1526 in a pamphlet, " a man delivered over to death and 
only preserved in life by a wonder and in defiance of the 
wrath of the devil and his saints." 4 

In February, 1520, he speaks of the intimation he has 
received of a great storm impending, were God not to place 
some hindrance in the way of Satan. " I have seen Satan s 
cunning plans for my destruction and that of many others. 
Doubtless the Divine Word can never be administered with 
out confusion, tumult and danger. It is a word of boundless 
majesty, it works great things and is wonderful on high." 
This was to be his only guide in his undertaking. He was 
compelled, so he declared on the same occasion, " to leave 
the whole matter to God, to resign himself to His guidance 
and to look on while wind and waves make the ship their 
plaything." 5 

He frequently repeats later that his professorship at the 
University had been bestowed upon him by a Divine dis 
pensation and against his will ; whereas others were 

1 To Wenceslaus Link, March 19, 1522, " Brief wechsel," .3, p. .315. 

2 See, for instance, iv., xxvi., 2. 

3 Cp. for instance, his letter to Nicholas Amsdorf, about March 1 1 , 
1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 23. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 261, in the work " Widder den 
Radschlag der gantzen Meintzischen Pfafferey." 

5 To Spalatin, February, 1520, " Briefwechsel," 2, p. 344 : " Data 
est mihi notio futures alicuius insignis turbulce. . . . Vidi cogitationex 
eius (Satance) artificiosissimas," etc. 


honoured for their academic labours, he complains to 
Spalatin of being persecuted ; "I teach against my will 
and yet I have to endure evil things." " What I now do and 
have done, I was compelled to do." " I have enough sins 
on my conscience without incurring the unpardonable one 
of being .unfaithful to my office, of refraining from scourging 
evil and of neglecting the truth to the detriment of so many 
thousand souls." 1 At the time when the Disputation at 
Leipzig was preparing, he tells the same confidant that 
the matter must be left to God : " I do not desire that it 
should happen according to our designs, otherwise I would 
prefer to desist from it altogether." Spalatin must not 
desire to see the matter judged and settled according to 
human wisdom, but should remember that we know nothing 
of " Gcd s plans." 2 

Everything had befallen him in accordance with God s 
design. It was in accordance therewith, nay, " at the com 
mand of God," that he had become a monk, so at least he 
says later. This, too, was his reason for giving up the 
office in choir and the recitation of the Breviary. " Our 
Lord God dragged me by force from the canonical hours, 
anno 1520. " 3 His marriage likewise was the direct result 
of God s plan. " The Lord suddenly Hung me into matri 
mony in a wonderful way while my thoughts were set in 
quite another direction." 4 At an earlier date he had, so he 
said, defended the theses of his Resolutions only " because 
God compelled him to advance all these propositions." 5 

His first encounter with Dr. Eck took place, so he was 
persuaded, " at God s behest." 6 " God takes good care that 
I should not be idle." 7 It is God Who " calls and compels 
him " to return to Wittenberg after his stay at the Wart- 
burg. 8 It is not surprising, then, that he also attributes 
to God s doing the increase in the number of his friends and 

1 To Spalatin, July 9, 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 429 f. 

2 In 1519, after February 24, ibid., 2, p. 6. 

3 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 0. 

4 To Wenceslaus Link on June 20, 1525, " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 201. 

5 Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 185. 

6 To Christoph Scheurl, February 20, 1519, " Brief wechsel," 1, 
p. 433 : " Dei consilium." 

7 To Staupitz, February 20, 1519, ibid., 1, p. 431. 

8 To the Elector Frederick of Saxony, March 7, 1522, "Werke," 
Erl. ed., 53, p. 109 (" Brief wechsel," 3, p. 298). 


The success of his efforts to bring about a great falling 
away from the Catholic Church he regarded as a clear 
Divine confirmation of his mission, so that " no higher proof 
or miracle was needed." 1 Even the disturbance and tumult 
which resulted bore witness in his favour, since Christ says : 
" I am come to send a sword." All around him prevailed 
" discord, revolt and uproar," 2 because, forsooth, the Gospel 
was there at work ; the calm, unquestioned sovereignty of 
Popery within its own boundaries was a sure sign of its 
being the devil s own. 3 "Did I not meet with curses, I 
should not believe that my cause was from God." 4 

It is evident from these and other like statements how 
greatly his fame, the increase of his followers and his un 
expected success engrossed and intoxicated him. In judging 
of him we must not under-estimatc the effect of the din of 
applause in encouraging him in his self-suggestion. The 
cheers of so great a crowd, as Erasmus remarked in a letter 
to Melanchthon, might well have turned the head even of 
the humblest man. What anchor could have held the bark 
exposed to such a storm ? Outbursts such as the following, to 
which Luther gave vent under the influence of the deafening 
ovation, were only to be expected of such a man as he, 
when he had once cut himself adrift from the Church : 
" God has now given judgment . . . and, contrary to the 
expectation of the whole world, has brought things to such 
a pass. . . . The position of the Pope grows daily worse. 
that we may extol the work of God herein." 5 Under the 
magic, influence of the unhoped-for growth of his movement 
of revolt, he declared it could only be due to a higher power, 
" which so disposed things that even the gates of hell were 
unable to prevent them." Not he, but " another man, 
drives the wheel." It is as clear as day that no man could, 
single-handed, have achieved so much, and, by " mere 
word of mouth," done more harm to the Pope, the bishops, 
priests and monks than all worldly powers hitherto. 6 Christ 
was working for him so strenuously, so he declares in all 

1 5 Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 280 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 217. In 1521. 

2 Ibid., p. 281-219. 3 Ibid., p 281-218. 

4 To Spalatin, January 14, 1519, " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 351. 

5 To the Archbishop of Mayence, December 1, 1521, "Werke," 
Erl. ed., 53, p. 97 (" Briefwecllsel," 3, p. 251). 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 22, p. 53. " Von welltlicher Uberkeytt," 


seriousness, that he might well calmly await His complete 
victory over Antichrist ; for this reason there was really no 
need to trouble about the ecclesiastical organisation of the 
new Church, or to think of all the things it would otherwise 
have been necessary for him to remember. 

His mere success was not the only Divine witness in his 
favour ; Luther was also of opinion that owing to God s 
notable working, signs and wonders had taken place in 
plenty in confirmation of the new teaching ; such Divine 
wonders, however, must not be " thrown to the winds." 1 
He seems, nevertheless, to have had at one time the intention 
of collecting and publishing these miracles. 2 

In short, " the first-fruits of the Grace of God," he says, 
have come upon us ; in these he was unwilling that later 
teachers, who differed from him, should be allowed to 
participate. 3 

Was not the guidance of Christ also plainly visible in the 
fact that he, the proclaimer of His Word, had been delivered 
from so many ambushes on the part of the enemies who 
lay in wait for him ? Such a thought lay at the root of his 
words to his pupil Mathesius : There was no doubt that 
poison had frequently been administered to him, but " an 
important personage had been heard to say, that none had 
any effect on him." On one occasion, however, when an 
attempt had been made to poison him, He " Who said, If 
they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them, blessed 
him, and preserved him then and afterwards from all 
mischief." 4 " I also believe," Luther once said, according 
to BindseiPs Latin " Colloquial that " my pulpit-chair and 
cushion were frequently poisoned, yet God preserved me." 5 
Similar words are recorded in the Diary of Cordatus. 6 This 
accounts for the strange tales which grew up amongst his 
pupils and followers of how " God Almighty had always 
preserved him in a wonderful manner," of how He " had 
affrighted the knaves " who sought his life, and so forth, of 
which the early editions of Luther s Works have so much 
to say. 

11 See below, p. 153 ff. 2 Ibid ^ 

3 To the Elector Frederick and Duke Johann of Saxony, in July, 
1524, " Brief wechsel," 4, p. 372. " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p.*263 f. He 
admits that he has not " the fulness of the Spirit." 

4 Mathesius, " Historien," pp. 195 , 196. 

5 " Oolloq.," ed Biudseil, 3, p. 166. P. 150. 


Among the characteristics most highly extolled by his 
earliest followers as exemplifying his mission must be 
instanced, first, his inflexible courage, amounting frequently 
to foolhardiness, in the accomplishment, of his set task, viz. 
the establishing of the Evangel and the destruction of 
Popery ; secondly, his extraordinary capacity for work and 
the perseverance of which he gave such signal proof in his 
literary undertakings; thirdly, his entire disregard for 
temporal advantages, which he himself held up as an 
example to those of the evangelical preachers whose worldh- 
ness had become a reproach to the Lutheran cause. 

Very strange and remarkable is the connection between 
Luther s mysticism and the simple and homely view he took 
of life ; the pleasure with which he welcomed everything 
good which came in his way so far as it was free from any 
trace of Popery the kindly, practical turn of his manner 
of thinking and acting when among his own people, and 
that love for humour and good cheer which so strikingly 
contrasts with the puritanical behaviour of his opponents, 
the Anabaptists and fanatics. 

To reconcile his mysticism with habits at first blush so 
divergent would present quite a problem in itself were we 
not to take into account the fact, that homeliness and 
humour had been his from the very beginning, whereas his 
mysticism was a later growth, always to some extent alien 
to his character. His mysticism he carefully confined to 
what related to his supposed Divine mission, though at times 
he docs indeed seem to extend indefinitely the range of this 
mission. Yet, when the duties of his oflice had cost him 
pain or tried his temper, he was ever glad to return to the 
realities of life, and to seek relief in social intercourse or in 
his family circle. 

When it was a question of the working of miracles by the 
heaven-sent messenger, he was of too practical a turn of 
mind to appeal to anything but the ostensible tokens of the 
Divine favour worked around him and on his behalf in 
proof of the truth of the new Evangel. He carefully 
avoided attributing any miracles to his own powers, even 
when assisted by Divine grace, though, occasionally, he 
seems to imply that, were the need to arise, he might well 
work wonders by the power of God, were he only to 
ask it of Him. With the question of miracles and pro- 


dictions as proofs of Luther s Divine mission we shall deal 
later (p. 153 ff.), 

While on the one hand Luther s views of miracles and 
prophecies witness to an error which was not without effect 
on his persuasion of his Divine mission, on the other his 
pseudo-mystic notion of his special calling led him super- 
stitiously to see in chance events of history either the 
extraordinary confirmation of his mission or the celestial 
condemnation of Popery. 

We know that Luther not only shared the superstitions 
of his contemporaries, but also defended them with all the 
weight of his great name and literary talents. 1 When at 
Vienna, in January, 1520, something unusual was perceived 
in the sky, he at once referred it to " his tragedy," as he had 
done even previously in similar cases. He also expressed 
the wish that he himself might be favoured with some such 
sign. The noisy spirits which had formerly disturbed 
people had, he believed, been reduced in number through 
out the world solely owing to his Evangel. The omnipo 
tence of the devil and the evil he worked on men was, so he 
thought, to be restrained only by the power of that Word 
which had again been made known to the world, thanks to 
his preaching. 2 It was his intention to publish an account 
of the demoniacal happenings which had taken place in his 
day and which confirmed his mission ; he was only pre 
vented from doing this by want of time. 3 To astrology, 
unlike Melanchthon, he ever showed himself averse. 

Another clement which loomed large in his persuasion 
that he was a prophet was his so-called "temptations," 
i.e. the mental troubles, which, so he thought, were caused 
by the devil and which, coinciding as they often did with 
other sufferings, were sometimes the cause of long fits of 
misery and dejection. 4 

1 See especially vol. v., xxxi. Many other proofs will be found 
scattered throughout our volumes. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 59, p. 348 ; GO, p. 31, 70 ; 53, p. 342 (Letter 
ol the beginning of April, 1525, to the Christians at Antwerp " Brief - 
wechsel," 5, p. 151, and " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 547. 

* His intention was to collect the " portenta Satance " in order to 
make the " salutaria miracula Evangelii quotidie inundantia " known 
everywhere. Thus to Justus Jonas on January 23, 1542, " Briefe " ed 
De Wette, 5, p. 429. 

4 Regarding his psychic troubles and hallucinations, see vol 



These temptations in their most extreme form Luther 
compared with the death-agony. His extraordinary ex- 
perienecs, of which he never understood the pathological 
cause were regarded by him as God s own testimony to 
his election. His conviction was that, by imposing on him 
these pangs of hell, God was cleansing him for the grand 
task assigned to him, even as He had done with other 
favoured souls in the past, When plunged in the abyss of 
such sufferings he felt like St. Paul, the Apostle of the 
Gentiles, who likewise was buffeted by Satan (vol. i., p. 381 f .), 
and whom he would fain have emulated in his " revelations 
of the Divine mysteries. Only in the sequel, however, will 
it be possible to describe Luther s pathology for the benci 
of those to whom it may be of interest. 

All his troubles, whether due to doubt and sadness or t 
the fury of foes stirred up by Satan against him, he utilised, 
so lie tells us, as an incentive to immerse himself ever more 
and more in the study of Holy Scripture, to cultivate the 
understanding bestowed upon him, and to seek its practical 
applications. " My theology was not all learnt in a day ; 
1 was obliged to explore deeper and deeper to acquire it. My 
temptations helped me, for it is impossible to understand 
Holy Scripture without experience and temptations, 
is what the fanatics and unruly spirits lack, viz. that capital 
<rainsayer the devil, who alone can teach a man this. St. 
Paul had a devil, who beat him with his fists and drove him 
by the way of temptation diligently to study Holy Scripture. 
I have had the Pope, the Universities and all the scholars, 
and, behind them all, the devil, hanging round my neck : 
they drove me to the Bible and made me read it until at 
length I reached the right understanding of it. Unless we 
have such a devil, we remain mere speculative theologians, 
for whose precious imaginings the world is not much 
better." 1 This casual saying of Luther s gives us a good 
glimpse into his customary process of thought when in 
presence of troubles and temptations, great or small. 

The above passage, moreover, agrees with many similar 
statements of his, inasmuch as, far from ascribing his 
doctrine to any actual revelation, he makes its discovery to 
result from effort on his part, under the guidance of a higher 
illumination. Luther, less than any other, could scarcely 
i " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 99. 


have been unconscious oi the gradual change in his views, 
more particularly at the outset of his career as Evangelist 
and prophet ; at the very least it was clear that, in the 
earlier period of his higher mission, he had taught much 
that was borrowed from Popery and which he discarded 
only later ; at that time, as he puts it, he was still " besotted 
with Popery." 

Periodic Upheaval of Luther s Idea of his Divine Mission. 

Luther s consciousness of his Divine mission found 
expression with varying degrees of intensity at different 
periods of his life. 

At certain junctures, notably when historic events were 
impending, it was apt to burst forth, producing in him 
effects of a character almost terrifying. Such was the case, 
for instance, in the days which immediately preceded and 
followed the proclamation of the Bull of Excommunication. 
At that time it seemed as though every spirit of revolt had 
entered into him to use him as a tool for defying the authority 
of the Church. Such was the depth of his persuasion, that 
he, the excommunicate, was carried away to proclaim his 
unassailable prophetic rights in tones of the utmost con 

Towards the end of his stay at the Wartburg and during the 
iirst period of his struggle with the Anabaptists at Witten 
berg, we again hear him insisting on his own exalted mission ; 
owing, however, to the mystic illumination of which the 
fanatics boasted, his claims are now based, not so much on 
mystical considerations, as on the " outward Word," whose 
authentic representative he had, by his works, proved 
himself to be. 

^ The loneliness and gloom of the Wartburg and his 
"diabolical " experiences there doubtless helped to convince 
him yet more of the reality of his mission. The ensuing 
struggle with those of the innovators who differed from him 
and even threatened to oust him, acted as a further stimulus 
and aroused his powers of resistance to the utmost. Nor 
must we forget the threatening attitude of the Imperial 
authorities at Nuremberg, whom he was resolved to oppose 
with the greatest determination ; only by impressing on 
Jus followers that he was something more than human 


would it be possible for him successfully to hold in check the 
hostility of Emperor and Princes. The supposed world-wide 
success of his venture also dazed him at this critical juncture, 
a fact which further elucidates the situation. 

Triumphantly ho cries : " The Lord has already begun to 
mock at Satan and his slaves. Satan is in truth vanquished, 
and the Pope, too, with all his abominations ! Now our only 
concern is the soap-bubble which has swelled to such alarming 
dimensions [the Nuremberg menace]. We believe in Christ, the 
Son of God, believe in His dominion over life and death. Whom 
then shall we fear ? The first-fruits of victory have already fallen 
to us ; we rejoice at the overthrow of the Papal tyranny, whereas 
formerly Kings and Princes were content to submit to its oppres 
sion ; how much easier will it be to vanquish and despise the 
Princes themselves ! " 

" If Christ assures us," he continues in this same letter, one of 
the first dispatched after his " Patnios " at the Wartburg, " that 
the Father has placed all tilings under His feet, it is certain that 
He lieth not ; all things must also comprise the mighty ones 
assembled at Nuremberg, not to speak of that Dresden bubble 
[Uuke George of Saxony]. Let them therefore set about deposing 
Christ. We, however, will calmly look on while the Father 
Almighty preserves His Son at His right hand from the face 
and the tail of these smoking firebrands " (Isa. vii. 4). Should a 
rising or a tumult among the people ensue " which cannot be 
suppressed by force, then that will be the Lord s own work ; 
He conceals the danger from the sight of the Princes ; and, 
owing to their blindness arid rebellion, He will work such things 
that methinks all Germany will be deluged with blood. Wo 
shall set ourselves like a hedge before God in favour of the land 
and the people (Ezek. xxii. 30), in this day of His great wrath, 
wherefore do you and your people pray for us." 

These words were addressed to an old Augustiiiiaii friend to 
whom he showed himself undisguisedly and in his true colours, 
In the same letter he has it that he considers it quite certain 
that Carlstadt, Gabriel Z willing and the fanatical^ Anabaptists 
were preaching without any real call, in fact, against God s will. To 
himself ho applies the words of our Redeemer : " He Whom^God 
has sent speaketh the words of God" (John hi. 34), and " He 
that seeketh the glory of Him that sent Him is true " (John yii. 
18). Fully convinced of the Divine inspiration arid compulsion 
he exclaims : " For this reason did I yield to necessity and 
return [from the Wartburg], viz. that I might, if God wills, put 
an end to this devils uproar " (of the fanatics). 1 

1 To Wenceslaus Link, March 1 !), 1522, " Brief weehsel," 3, p. 3 1-~>. 
Link, as Staupitz s successor in the Vicariate of the Order, had pro 
claimed at the commencement of the year in the Augustinian. chapter 
at Wittenberg the freedom of religious to forsake their convents and 
the abolition of the so-called " Corner-Masses," which Luther refers 
to in the letter in question as being a singular " deed of the Holy 


If Luther sought to show the fanatics that their fruits bore 
witness against them and their doctrine, it is worthy of note 
that Staupitz, his former Superior, about this very time, con 
fronted Luther with the disastrous fruits of his action, in order 
to dissuade him from the course he was pursuing. Staupitz, 
who so far had been his patron, had grown apprehensive of the 
character of the movement. His warning, however, only acted 
as oil on the flame of the enthusiasm then surging up in Luther. 
In his reply, dated in May, 1522, we find the real Luther, the 
prophet full of his own great plans : " You write that my under 
taking is praised [by discreditable people], and by those who 
frequent houses of ill-fame, and that much scandal has been 
given by my latest writings. I am not surprised at this, neither 
am I apprehensive. It is certain that we for our part have been 
careful to proclaim the pure Word without causing any tumult ; 
the good and the bad alike make use of this Word, and this, 
as you know, we cannot help. . . . For we do what Christ fore 
told when He commanded the angels to collect and remove out 
of His Kingdom all scandals. Father, I cannot do otherwise 
than destroy the Kingdom of the Pope, the Kingdom of abomina 
tion and wickedness together with all its train. God is already 
doing this without us, without any assistance from us, merely 
by His Word. The end of this Kingdom is come before the Lord. 
The matter far exceeds our powers of comprehension. . . . Great 
commotion of minds, great scandals and great signs must follow, 
in view of God s greatness. But, dear father, I hope this will not 
trouble you ; God s plan is visible in these things and His mighty 
hand. You will remember that at the outset everybody thought 
my undertaking suspicious, doubtful and altogether too bad, and 
yet it has held the field and will hold its own in spite of your 
apprehensions ; only have patience. Satan feels the smart of 
his wound, and that is why he rages so greatly and sets all at 
loggerheads. But Christ Who has begun the work will trample 
him under foot ; and the gates of hell will do their worst, but 
all in vain." 

So perverted an application of the promise solemnly made 
by Christ to the Church of Peter, that the gates of hell should 
not prevail against it, had surely never before been heard. 
Words such as these would even sound incredible did we not 
learn from the same letter into what a state of nervous excitement 
the ban and excommunication had plunged him. At Antwerp, 
Jacob Probst, one of his followers, was to be burned with 
two of his comrades, and in various localities Luther s writings, 
by order of the authorities, were being consigned to the flames. 
This it was which made him say in his letter : " My death by 
fire is already under discussion ; but I only defy Satan and his 
myrmidons the more that the day of Christ may be hastened, 
when an end will be put to Antichrist. Farewell, father, and pray 
for me. . . . The Evangel is a scandal to the self-righteous and 
to all who think themselves wise." 1 

1 To Staupitz at Salzburg, Wittenberg, June 27, 1522 " Brief - 
wechsel," 3, p. 40(5 


The later occasions on which this peculiar mystic idea 
asserted itself most strongly and vividly were during the 
exciting events of the Peasant War of 1525 ; in 1528, at 
the time his Evangel was in danger from the Empire, while he 
was tormented within ; his sojourn in the fortress of Coburg 
during the much-dreaded Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, when 
he again endured profound mental agony ; the period of the 
Schmalkald negotiations, in 1537, when the Council of Trent 
had already been summoned, while Luther was suffering 
much from disease ; finally, in the last years of his life, 
accompanied as they were by recurring friction with the 
various Courts and hostile parties, when a growing bitterness 
dominated his spirit. 

In this last period of his career the sense of his Divine 
mission revived in full force, never again to quit him. His 
statements concerning his mission now bear n more pessi 
mistic stamp, but he nevertheless holds fast to it and allows 
nothing to disconcert him by any suspicion of a mistake on 
his part, nor docs he betray any trace of his earlier doubts 
and misgivings. 

"We know that it is Cod s cause," he says in 1541 to the 
Electoral Chancellor Briick : "God has commenced it and 
carried it through, and He too will finish it ! Whoever does not 
wish to follow us, let him fall to the rear, with the Emperor aiie 
the Turk ; all the devils shall gain nothing here, let what 
wills befall us." 1 , 

" It annoys me that they should esteem these things 
Evangel] as though they were secular, Imperial, Turkish or 
princely matters to be decided and controlled, bestowed and 
accepted by reason alone. It is a matter which Cod and the 
devil with their respective angels must arrange^ ^ Whoever does 
not believe this will do no good in the business." 2 

When the negotiations at Ratisbon seemed to be exposing the 
timorous Melanchthoii to the " snares of Satan," Luther in his 
wonted presumptuous fashion wrote to him : " Our cause is not 
to be controlled by our own action, but only by Cod s Providence. 
The Word progresses, prayer is ardent, hope endures, fait 
conquers, so that verily we cannot but see it, and might even 
sleep calmly and feast were we not so carnal ; for the words o 
Moses are also addressed to us : The Lord will fight for you 
and you shall hold your peace (cp. Exod. xiv. 14). It is certain 

* Beginning of April, " Letters," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 339. Cp. a 
similar statement made to the Elector 011 June 24, 1541, ^b^d., p. 616: 
" God, Who has begun it without our strength or reason, will carry H 
out as He sees best " (of the Ratisbon Interim). 

2 Ibid., pp. 339, 340. 


t-liat the Lord is fighting, that He is slowly and gradually descend 
ing from His Throne to the [Last] Judgment which we so anxiously 
look for. The signs announcing the approaching Judgment are 
all too numerous. . . . Hence put away all fear. Be strong and 
glad and untroubled, for the Lord is near. Let them undertake 
what they please, the Henrys [he is thinking of Henry of Bruns 
wick, an opponent], the bishops, and likewise the Turks arid 
Satan himself. We are children of the kingdom, and we await 
and honour Him as our Saviour Whom these Henrys spit upon 
and crucify anew." 1 

In what frame of mind he then was, and what strange judg 
ments he could pass, is seen even more plainly from what he adds 
concerning a tract he had just published against Duke Henry of 

This work, entitled " Wider Hans Worst," is, in style and 
matter, an attack of indescribable violence on this Catholic 
prince and Catholics in general. Yet Luther writes of it to 
Melanchthon : "I have re-read my book against this devil, and 
I cannot understand what has happened to make me so restrained. 
I attribute it to my headache which prevented my mind from 
being carried away on the wings of the storm." The " blood 
hound and incendiary assassin," as he calls the Duke, would 
otherwise have had to listen to a very different song for having 
compelled Luther to " waste his time on Henry s devil s excre 
ment." That the Duke had been the originator of the appalling 
number of fires which occurred in the Electorate of Hesse in 
1540, both Luther and Melanchthon were firmly convinced. 
Luther s readiness to cherish the blackest suspicions, his volcanic 
rage against Catholics, the pessimism of his reiterated cry : 
" Let everything fall, stand or sink into ruins, as it pleases ; let 
things take their own course," 2 form a remarkable accompaniment 
to the thrilling tones in which he again asserts his consciousness 
of the fulfilment of his Divine mission. 

We must here revert to some of Luther s statements 
concerning the triumphant progress of the Evangel and the 
determined resistance to be offered to all opposing forces 
solemn declarations which attain their full meaning only in 
the light of his idea of his own Divine mission. We give the 
gist of the passages already quoted in detail elsewhere. 
These passages, which reek of revolution, are altogether 
inspired by the glowing idea of his heavenly mission apart 
from which they are scarcely comprehensible. 

" If war is to come of it, let it come," etc. " Princely foes 
are delivered up to us as a holocaust in order that they may 

1 On April 12, 1541, " Brief e," ibid., p. 341 f. 

2 On March 20, 1542, to Jacob Probst, " Brief e," 5, p. 451. Similarly 
on December 3, 1544, to Cordatus, ibid., p. 702. 


be rewarded according to their works " ; God will " deliver 
His people even from the fiery furnace of Babylon." 3 

"Let things run on merrily and be prepared for the 
worst," " whether it be war or revolt, as God s anger may 

decree." 2 

" Let justice take its course even should the whole world 

fall into ruins." 3 

" It is said, If the Pope fall, Germany will perish, 
what has this to do with me ? " 

"It is God s Word. Let what cannot stand, fall, and 
what is not to remain, pass away." " It is a great thing," 
he continues, " that for the sake of the young man [the 
Divine Redeemer] this Jewish Kingdom and the Divine 
Service which had been so gloriously instituted and ordered 
should fall to the ground." Not Christ alone, he says, had 
spoken of His work in the same way that he (Luther) did 
of his own, but St. Paul also, in spite of his grief over the 
Jews, had, like himself, constantly declared: "The Word 
is true, else everything must fall into ruins ; for He Who 
sent me and commanded me to preach, will not lie." 1 

His followers recalled his words, that it were better " all 
churches, convents and foundations throughout the world 
should be rooted out " than that " even one soul should be 
seduced by such [Popish] error." 6 And again : " Arc we 
to forswear the truth ? " " Would it be strange were the 
rulers, the nobles and laity to fall upon the Pope, the 
bishops, priests and monks and drive them out of the land ? " 
They had brought it upon themselves and it was necessary 
"to pray for them." 7 But prayer might not suffice. 
If no improvement took place, then " a general destruction 
of all the foundations and convents would be the best 
reformation." 8 

1 From the letter to Justus Jonas of September 20, 1530, " Brief - 

V6C 2 < 6 Werke; Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 279 ; Erl. ed., 20-, p. 8, in the " War- 
nunge an seine lieben Deudschen," 1531. 

3 " Considerations on the proposed Conditions of Peace, ot August, 
1531(?), " Brief wechsel," 9, p. 76. See above, p. 45, n. 5. 

* "Werke," Weim. ed., 33, p. 606 ; Erl. ed., 48, p. 342, 111 the 
Exposition of St. John s Gospel, 1530-1532. 

6 Ibid., p. 605 seg. = 342. 

6 Ibid., Weim. ed., 10, 1, 1, p. 253 ; Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 222. 

7 Tbid., 6, p. 621 =24 2 , p. 46. 

8 Werke," Erl. ed., 7 2 , p. 121. 


These outbursts date almost all from the time of the Diet 
of Augsburg, or that immediately succeeding it, They 
might, however, be compared with some earlier utterances 
not one whit less full of fanaticism ; for instance, where he 
says to the Elector, in 1522 : " Not only the spiritual but 
also the secular power must yield to the Evangel, whether 
willingly or unwillingly " ; l or the opening sentences of his 
" Bull of the Evening Feed of our Most Holy Lord the 
Pope " (1522) : " After having had to put up with so many 
hawkers of bulls, cardinals . . . and the countless horde 
of extortioners and swindlers and knaves whom the Rhine 
would hardly suffice to drown . . . ! " 2 

A flood of rage and passionate enthusiasm for his mission 
finds vent in these words : " If they hope ever to exterminate 
the Turks they must begin with the Pope." 3 " The Pope 
drives the whole world from the Christian faith to his 
devilish lies, so that the Pope s rule is ten times worse than 
that of the Turk for both body and soul." 4 

Previous to this, in February, 1519, he reveals in the 
following words the agitation and ferment going on within 
him : "I adjure you," he says to his friend Spalatin, "if 
you would think aright of the Evangel, not to imagine that 
such a cause can be fought out without tumults, scandal and 
rebellion. You cannot make a pen out of a sword, or peace 
of war. The Word of God is a sword, war, ruin, scandal, 
destruction, poison and, as we read in the Old Covenant, 
Like to a bear in the road and a lioness in the wood, so it 
withstands the sons of Ephraim." 5 

No Apostle or Prophet ever laid claim to a Divine 
authorisation for their preaching in language so violent. 
Indeed, mere phrases and extracts from his writings scarcely 
suffice to give a true picture of the intensity of his pre 
possession for his supposed Divine calling and of his furious 
hatred of his opponents. It would, in fact, be necessary to 
read in their entirety certain of his polemical works. That 
they have not done so is the explanation why so many know 
only a polished Luther and have scarcely an inkling of the 
fierceness of the struggle which centred round his conscious- 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. Ill ("], " 3, pp. 298, 304) 
- Ibid., Weim. ed., 8, p. 691 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p 168 
" Ibid., p. 709=189. * Ibi d 

Thus it is that lie excuses the blustering character of his writings 
against those who defended the Church. 


ness of a Divine mission, and of the depth of his animosity 
against those who dared to gainsay him. 

Nor was this consciousness of his without its effects on 
those around him. During the long years of his public life, 
it kindled the passion of thousands and contributed largely 
to the Peasant Revolt and the unhappy religious wars which 
followed later. Indirectly it was also productive of disaster 
for the Empire by forcing it to make terms with the 
turbulent elements within, and by preventing it from display 
ing a united front against the Turks and other enemies 
without. On the other hand, in the case of very many who 
honestly looked on Luther as a real reformer of the Church, 
it also served to infuse into them new enthusiasm for what 
they deemed the Christian cause. 

Its effect on Luther s character in later life was such as 
to make him, in his writings to the German people, rave like a 
maniac of the different forms of death best suited for Pope 
and Cardinals, viz. being hanged on the gallows with their 
tongues torn out, being drowned in the Tyrrhenean Sea, or 
" flayed alive." 1 t; How my llesh creeps and how my blood 
boils/ he cries, after one such outburst. - 

If we remember the frenzy with which he carried out his 
religious enterprise, the high tension at which he ever 
worked and his inexhaustible source of eloquence, it is easy 
to fancy ourselves face to face with something more than 
human. The real nature of the spirit which, throughout 
Luther s life, was ever so frantically at work within him, 
must for ever remain a secret. One eye alone, that of the 
All-seeing, can pierce these depths. Anxious Catholic 
contemporaries of Luther s strongly suspected that they 
had to deal with one possessed by the evil spirit. This 
opinion was openly voiced, first by Johann Nathin, Luther s 
contemporary at the Erfurt monastery, by Emser, Cochlseus, 
Dungersheim and certain other early opponents, and then 
by several others whose testimony will be heard later (vol. iv., 
xxvii., 1). 

Catholic contemporaries also urged that his claim to a 
Divine mission was mere impudence. A simple monk, 
hitherto quite unknown to the world, so they said, breaks 

1 "Werke," Erl. od., 2G 2 , pp. 170, 229, 242, in the work "Das 
Bapstum vom Teuffel gestifit," 

2 Ibid,, p. 242. 


his vows and dares to set himself in opposition to the 
universal Church. A man, whose repute was not of the 
best, and who not only lacked any higher attestation, but 
actually exhibited in his doctrine of evangelical freedom, in 
the disorderly lives of his followers and in the dissensions 
promoted by his fanatical and stormy rhetoric, those very 
signs which our Redeemer had warned His disciples would 
follow false prophets such a man, they argued, could 
surely not be a reformer, but was rather a destroyer, of 
Christendom ; he perceives not that the Church, for all her 
present abuses and corruption, has nevertheless all down 
the ages scattered throughout the world the Divine blessings 
committed to her care by a promise which shall never fail, 
and that she will soon rise again purer and more beautiful 
than ever, for the lasting benefit of mankind. 

Luther, on the contrary, sought to base his claim to a 
Divine mission on the abuses rampant in Popery, which, he 
would have it, was altogether under the dominion of the 
devil and quite beyond redemption. 

2. His Mission Alleged against the Papists 

Luther, subsequent to his apostasy, accustomed himself 
to speak of Catholicism in a fashion Scarcely credible. He 
did not shrink even from the grossest and most impudent 
depreciation of the Church of the Popes. His incessant 
indulgence in such abuse calls for some examination into its 
nature and the mental state of which it was a product. 

The Pope and the Papacy. 

The Roman Curia, Luther repeatedly declared, did not 
believe one word of all the truths of religion ; at the faithful 
who held fast to Revelation they scoffed and called them 
good simpletons (" buoni cristiani") : they knew nothing 
either of the Creed or of the Our Father, and from all the 
ecclesiastical books put together not as much could be 
learnt as from one page of Martin Luther s Catechism. 

"Mark this well," he declared as early as 1520 in his work 
" Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome," of all that is ordered of God 
not one jot or tittle is observed at Rome ; indeed, they mock at it 
as folly when anyone pays any attention to it. They don t mind 
a bit that the Gospel and the faith of Christ are perishing through- 


out the world, and would not lift a finger to prevent it. 1 The 
Popes are simply " Epicureans," so that, naturally, almost all 
those who return from Rome bring back home with them an 
" Epicurean faith." " For this at least is certain, viz. that the 
Pope and the Cardinals, together with their schools of knaves, 
believe in nothing at all ; in fact, they smile when they hear faith 
mentioned." 2 

" What cares the Pope about prayer and God s Word ? He 
has his own god to serve, viz. the devil. But this is a mere trifle. 
. . . What is far worse, and a real masterpiece of all the devils 
in hell, is, that he usurps the authority to set up laws and articles 
of faith. . . . He roars, as though chock-full of devils, that 
whosoever does not obey him and his Romish Church cannot be 
saved. . . . Papistically, knavishly, nay, in a truly devilish way, 
does the Pope, like the stupid scoundrel he is, use the name of 
the holy Roman Church, when he really means his school of 
knaves, his Church of harlots and hermaphrodites, the devil s 
own hotchpotch. . . . For such is the language of his Romish 
Church, and whoever has to do with the Pope and the Roman 
See must first learn this or else he fares badly. For the devil, 
who founded the Papacy, speaks and works everything through 
the Pope and the Roman See." 3 

His " Heer-Predigt widder den Tiircken," in 1529, supplied 
him with the occasion for the following aside : " The Pope s 
doctrine is mere spiritual murder and not one whit better than 
the teaching and blasphemy of Mohammed or the Turks. . . . 
We have nothing but devils on either side and everywhere." 4 
" They even try to force us poor Christians at the point of the 
sword to worship the devil and blaspheme Christ. Other tyrants 
have at least this in their favour, that they crucify the Lord of 
Glory ignorantly, like the Turks, the heathen and the Jews . . . 
but they [the Papists], say : We know that Christ s words and 
acts testify against us, but nevertheless we shall not endure His 
Word, or yield to it." 3 "I believe the Pope is the devil incarnate 
in disguise ; for he is Antichrist. For, as Christ is true God and 
man, so Antichrist is the incarnation of the devil." 6 

" The superstition of the Pope exceeds that of the Jews." 
Though the Pope drags countless souls down to hell, yet we may 
not say to him : " For shame ! Why act you thus ? " " Had 
not his prestige been overthrown by the Word [i.e. by my preach 
ing] even the devil would have vomited him forth. But this 
deliverance [from the Pope] we esteem a small matter and have 
become ungrateful. God, however, will send other forms of 
darkness to avenge this ingratitude ; we still have this consola 
tion, that the Last Day cannot be far distant ; for the prophecy 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 287 f. ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 90. 

2 Ibid., Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 147. 

3 Ibid., p. 163 f. 

4 Ibid., Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 105 f. ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 119. 

5 Ibid., Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 283. 

6 Ibid., GO, p. 180. 



of Daniel has been entirely fulfilled, where he describes the 
Papacy as though he had actually seen its doings." 1 

" At Rome," so he assures his readers, " they pull the noses of 
us German fools," and then say, that "it is of Divine institution 
that none can be made bishop without the authority of Rome. 
I can only wonder that Germany . . . has a farthing left for 
this horde of unspeakable, intolerable Roman fools, scoundrels 
and robbers." 2 " Worse even than this rapacious seizing of the 
money of foreigners is the Pope s usurped right of deciding 
matters of faith. He acts just as he pleases in accordance with 
the imaginary interior inspirations which he believes he receives." 
" He does just the same as Thomas Miinzer and the Anabaptists, 
for he treads under foot the outward Word of God, trusts entirely 
to higher illumination and gives vent to his own fond inventions 
against Holy Scripture ; which is the reason why we blame him. 
We care not for mere human thoughts ; what we want is the out 
ward Word." 3 

" In short, what shall I say ? No error, superstition or idolatry 
is too gross to be admitted and accepted ; at Rome they even 
honour the Pope as God. And the heathen also had a god, whose 
name it was not lawful to utter." 4 

The Catholics. 

If we turn from the Pope-God or Pope-devil to the Papists, 
from the Roman Curia to the Catholics, we find them 
scourged in similar language. 

Amidst a wealth of imagery quite bewildering to the mind, 
one idea emerges clearly, viz. that he has been summoned 
by God for the purpose of rebuilding Christianity from the 
very foundation. Nothing but such a mission could justify 
him in forcing upon himself and others the belief, that the 
existing Church had been utterly corrupted by the devil 
and that everybody who dared to oppose him was inspired 
by Satan. 

" No one can be a Papist unless he is at the very least a 
murderer, robber or persecutor," for " he must agree " that the 
"Pope and his crew are right in burning and banishing people," 5 
etc. The worst thing about the Papists is the Mass ; he would 
rather he had " kept a brothel, or been a robber, than have 
sacrificed and blasphemed Christ for fifteen years by saying 
Mass." 6 

Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 404 seq, 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 288 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 91. 
Ibid., Erl. ed., 27, p. 77. 
"Werke," Erl. ed., 01, p. 77. 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 263. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., (50, p. 106. 


Their blood thirstiness is beyond belief. " They would not 
care a scrap were no Prince or ruler left in Germany, and were 
the whole land bathed in blood, so long as they were free to 
exercise their tyranny and lead their godless and shameless life." 1 
So shameless is their life that the morals of the Lutherans glitter 
like gold in comparison. Yea, " our life even when it reeks most 
of sin is better than all their [the Papists ] sanctity, though it 
should seem to smell as sweet as balsam." 2 The Catholics had 
destroyed the Baptism instituted by Christ, and replaced it by 
a baptism of works, hence their doctrine is as pernicious as that 
of the Anabaptists, nay, is exactly on a level with that of the 
Jews. 3 

The Catholics profess " unbelief in God," and " put to death 
those guileless Christians who refuse to countenance such 
idolatry " ; they are " not fit to be compared with oxen or 
asses," seeing that they exalt " their self-chosen works," " far 
above God s commandment. For in addition to the idolatry 
and ungodly teaching whereby they daily outrage and blaspheme 
God, they do not perform any works of charity towards their 
neighbour, nay, would rather leave anyone to perish in want 
than stretch out a hand to help him. Again, they are as careful 
not to deviate by a hair s breadth from their man-made ordinances, 
rules and commands as \vere the Jews with regard to the Sabbath. 
. . . They make no scruple of cheating their neighbour of his 
money and goods in order to fill their own belly. . . . Such 
perverse and crazy saints, more foolish than ever ox or ass, are 
all those, Mohammedans, Turks or whatever else they be called, 
who refuse to listen to or receive Christ." 4 

It was Luther that Dr. Jonas had heard, on one occasion at 
table, express the opinion concerning the Papists : " Young 
fellows, take note of this definition : A Papist is a liar and 
murderer, nay, the devil himself. Hence they are not to be 
trusted, for they thirst for our blood." 5 

Luther himself assures us that " the blindness of the Papists 
and the anger of God against the Papacy was terrible." " Chris 
tians, redeemed by the Blood of Christ, put away this blood and 
worshipped the crib, surely an awful fall ! If this had happened 
amongst the heathen it would have been regarded as monstrous." 6 

The Catholics, Luther taught, never pray, in fact, they do not 
know how to pray but only how to blaspheme. We find other 
almost incredible allegations born of his fancy and voiced in a 
sermon in 1524, of which we have a transcript. " They taught 
the Our Father, but warned us not to use it [by instructing us 
to get others to pray for us in our stead]. It is true that for 
many years I shouted [* bawled, he says elsewhere] in the 
monastery [in choir], but never did I pray. They mock the 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 19, p. 260. 

2 Ibid., p. 263. 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 19 2 , p. ir>5. 4 Ibid., 20 2 , p. 233. 

5 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 83. 

6 Ib id., p. 404. 


Lord God with their prayers. Never did they approach God with 
their hearts so as to pray for anything in faith." 1 

Had it been possible for a man to be saved in Popery ? He, 
Luther, replies that this might have happened because " some 
laymen " may have "held the crucifix in front of the dying man 
and said : Look up to Jesus, Who died on the cross for you. 
By this means many a dying man had turned to Christ in spite of 
having previously believed in the false, miraculous signs [which 
the devil performs in Popery] and acted as an idolater. Such, 
however, were lucky." 2 He admits incidentally that "many of 
our forefathers " had been saved in this exceptional way, though 
only such as " had been led astray into error, but had not clung 
to it." 3 In any case it was a miracle. " Those pious souls," 
many of whom had by God s grace been wonderfully preserved 
in the true faith in the midst of Popery," had been saved, so he 
fancies, in much the same way as " Abraham in Ur of the 
Chaldeans, and Lot in Sodom." 4 

Now, however, matters stood differently ; thanks to his 
mission light had dawned again, and the unbelief of the Catholics 
was therefore all the more reprehensible. In the heat of his 
polemic Luther goes so far as to accuse the Papists w T ho oppose 
him of the sin against the Holy Ghost. At any rate they were 
acting against their conscience, as he had pointed out before. 
He also hints that theirs is that worst sin, of which Christ declares 
(Matt. xii. 31), that it can be forgiven neither in this world nor 
in the next. The greater part of a sermon on this text which he 
preached at Wittenberg, in 1528 or 1529, deals with this criminal 
blindness on the part of Catholics, this deliberate turning away 
from the truth of the Holy Ghost to which Matthew refers. 
Here, as elsewhere, Luther s presupposition is : I teach " the 
bright Evangel with which even they can find no fault " ; I 
preach " nothing but what is plain to all and so clearly grounded 
on Scripture that they themselves are forced to admit it " ; 
" what is so plainly proved by the Holy Ghost " that it stands 
out as a " truth known to all." He proceeds : " When I was a 
learned Doctor I did not believe there was such a thing on earth 
as the sin against the Holy Ghost, for I never imagined or believed 
it was possible to find a heart that could be so wicked." But 
" now the Papal horde " has descended to this, for they " blas 
pheme and lie against their conscience " ; they " are unable to 
refute our Evangel or to advance anything against it," " yet 
they knowingly oppose our teaching out of waywardness and 
hatred of the truth, so that no admonition, counsel, prayer or 
chastisement is of any avail." " Thus openly to smite the Holy 
Ghost on the mouth," nay, " to spit in His Face," is to emulate 
the treachery of Judas in the depth of their " obstinate and 
venomous hearts"; for such it was "forbidden to pray," 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 432. 

2 Cp. Kostlin, " Luthers Theologio," 2 2 , p. 269. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 5, p. 346 f. 

4 Ibid., 46, p. 10. 


according to 1 John v. 16, because this would be to " insult the 
spirit of grace and tread under foot the Son of God." 
Papists richly deserve that the "Holy Ghost should forsake 
them," and that they should go " wantonly to their destruction 
according to their desire." In short, " It is better for people to 
be sunk "in sin, to be prostitutes and utter scamps, for at least 
they may yet come to a knowledge of the truth ; but these 
devil s saints who go to Divine worship full of good works, when 
they hear the Holy Ghost openly testifying against them, strike 
Him on the mouth and say : it is all heresy and devilry." 1 

The tone of hatred and of blind prejudice in favour ol 
his cause which here finds utterance may be explained to 
some extent by his experience during the sharp struggles of 
conscience through which lie was then going, and which 
formed the worst crisis of his inner states of terror. (See 
vol. v., xxxii., 4.) Nor must the connection be overlooked 
between his apparent confidence here and the attempt 
which he makes in one passage of the sermon to justify 
theologically his radical subversion of olden doctrine. The 
brief argument runs as follows : " From St. Paul everyone 
can infer that it cannot be achieved by works, otherwise the 
Blood of Christ is made of no account." Hence the holiness- 
by-works of the Catholics was an abomination. 2 

On another occasion I Ait her, speaking of the wilful 
blindness of the Catholics, declared that " God s untold 
wrath must sooner or later fall upon such Epicurean pigs 
and donkeys " ; the devil must be a spirit of tremendous 
power to incite them " deliberately to withstand God." 
They say and admit : " That is, I know, the Word of God, 
but "even though it is the Word of God I shall not suffer it, 
listen to it, nor regard it, but shall reprove it and call it 
heretical, and whoever is determined to obey God in this 
matter . . . him I will put to death or banish. I could 
never have believed there was such a sin." 1 

As such declarations of the wilful obstinacy of the 
Catholics are quite commonly made by him, we are tempted 
to assume that such was really his opinion; if so, we are 
here face to face with a remarkable instance of what his 
self-deception was capable. 

1 The passages quoted stand in the following order : 
1, 78, 82. Cp. " Werke," Weim. ed., 28, p. 18 f. 

pp. 77, 81, 82, 

2 P. 81. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 29, p. 8. 


Even at the Wartburg, however, he was already on the 
road to such an idea, for, while still there, he had declared 
that the Papists were unworthy to receive the truth which 
he preached : " Had they been worthy of the truth, they 
would long ago have been converted by my many writings." 
" If I teach them they only revile me ; I implore and they 
merely mock at me ; I scold them and they grow angry ; I 
pray for them and they reject my prayer ; I forgive them 
their trespass and they will have none of my forgiveness ; 
I am ready to sacrifice myself for them and yet they only 
curse me. What more can I do than Christ ? - 1 

It is true that according to him the Papists were ignorant 
to the last degree, and such ignorance had indeed always 
prevailed under Popery. " I myself have been a learned 
Doctor of theology and yet I never understood the Ten 
Commandments aright. Nay, there have been many 
celebrated Doctors who were not sure whether there were 
nine or ten or eleven Commandments ; much less did they 
know anything of the Gospel or of Christ." 2 

Still, this appalling ignorance on the part of the Papists 
did not afford any excuse or ground for charitable treat 
ment. Their malice, particularly that of the Popes, is too 
great. The Popes are a pot-boil of the very worst men on 
earth. They boast of the name of Christ, St. Peter and the 
Churches and yet arc full of the worst devils in hell, full, 
absolutely full, so full that they drivel, spew and vomit 
nothing but devils." 3 

A passage in the " Table-Talk " collected by Mathesius and 
recently published, shows that Luther considered his 
frenzied anti-popery as the most suitable method of combat 
ing Popish, errors ; " Philip [Melanchthon] isn t as yet angry 
enough with the Pope," he said some time in the winter of 
1542-43; " he is moderate by nature and always acts with 
moderation, which may possibly be of some use, as he 
himself hopes. But my storming (impetus) knocks the 
bottom out of the cask ; my way is to fall upon them with 
clubs ... for the devil can only be vanquished by con 
tempt. Enough has been written and said to the weak, as 

1 Letter in 1521 to " the poor little flock of Christ at Wittenberg " 
before August 12, " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 213; Erl. ed., 39, p. 128 
(" Brief wechsel," 3, p. 217). 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 14, p. 158. 

3 Ibid., 26 2 , p. 145. 


for the hardened, nothing is of any avail ... I rush in with 
all my might, but against the devil." 3 

His attitude towards scholarly Catholics was very apparent 
in the later episodes of his controversy with Erasmus. 2 

After having charged Popes and Cardinals with lack of faith, 
it can be no matter for surprise that he should have represented 
Erasmus as an utter infidel and a preacher of Epicureanism. 
The pretexts upon which Luther based this charge had been 
triumphantly demolished by Erasmus, and only Luther s prejudice 
in favour of his own mission to save Christendom from destruc 
tion could have led him to describe Erasmus as a depraved 
fellow, who personified all the infidelity and corruption o 

^ This man learned his infidelity in Rome," Luther ventured 
to say of him ; hence his wish " to have his Epicureanism 
praised." " He is the worst foe of Christ that has arisen for the 
last thousand years." 3 In 1519, before Erasmus took the field 
against him, Luther had written to him, praising him, and, n 
the hope of securing his co-operation, had said : You are oui 
ornament and our hope. . . . Who is there into whose mind 
Erasmus has not penetrated, who does not see in him a teacher, 
or over whom he has not established his sway ? You are dis 
pleasing to many, but therein I discern the gifts of our Gracious 
God With these my words, barbarous as they are, 1 would 
fain pay homage to the excellence of your mind to which we a 
of us, are indebted. . . . Please look on me as a little brother 
in Christ, who is wholly devoted to you and loves you dearly. 
On another occasion Luther abuses his opponent as iollows 
" The only foundation of all his teaching is his desire to gair 
the applause of the world ; he weights the scale with ignorance 
and malice " " What is the good of reproaching him with b 
on the same road as Epicurus, Lucian and the sceptics ? I3y 
doing so I merely succeeded in rousing the viper, and m ite tnry 
against me it gave birth to the Viperaspides [i.e. the Hyper- 
aspistes "]. In Italy and at Rome he sucked in the milk of the 
Lamise and Megairaj and now no medicine is of any avail. 
Even in what Erasmus says concerning the Creed, we see 
" os et organum Satanv." He may be compared with the enemy 
in the Gospel, who, while men slept, sowed cockel in the FJ 
We can understand now how Sacramentarians, Donatists, Arians, 
Anabaptists, Epicureans and so forth have again made theii 
appearance. He sowed his seed and then disappeared. And yet 
he stands in high honour with Pope and Prince. " Who wov 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 307. 

2 CD vol iv xxiii., 1, where Luther s attitude to Erasmus subse 
quent to the publication of " De servo arbitrio " (1525) is treate. 

m0 3 6 << Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 104 ff. Cp. Mathesius, " Tischreden," 
4 On March 28, 1519, " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 489 f. 


have believed that the hatred of Luther was so strong ? A poor 
man is made great simply through Luther." 1 

This letter Erasmus described in the title of his printed reply 
as " Epistola non sobria Martini Lutheri." Others, he says, 
might well explain it as a mental aberration, or as due to the 
influence of some evil demon. 2 

Luther, quite undismayed, continued to deny that Erasmus 
was in any sense a believer : " He regards the Christian religion 
and doctrine as a comedy or tragedy " ; he is " a perfect counter 
feit and image of Epicurus " ; to this " incarnate scoundrel, God 
the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is merely ludicrous." 
" Whereas I did not take the trouble to read most of the other 
screeds published against me, but merely put them to the basest 
use that paper can be put w T hich indeed was all they were 
worth I read through the whole of the Diatribe of Erasmus, 
though I was often tempted to throw it aside." He, like Demo- 
critus, the cynical heathen philosopher, looks on our whole 
theology as nothing better than a fairy tale. 3 

We may well be permitted to regard such statements 
made by Luther in his later years concerning the Catholics 
more as the result of a delusion than as deliberate falsehoods. 
It may be that Luther gradually persuaded himself that 
such was really the case. If this be so, we must, however, 
admit with Dollinger " the unparalleled perversion and 
darkening oi Luther s judgment " ; this, adds Dollinger, 
would explain " much in his statements which must other 
wise appear enigmatical." 4 Considerations such as those 
we have seen him (p. 121 ff.) allege concerning the truth of 
his cause being proved by its success, could scarcely have 
impressed any save an unsettled mind such as his. He 
seems to have accustomed himself to explaining the complex 
and highly questionable movement at the head of which he 
stood in a light other than the true one, so much so that he 
could declare : " God knows all this is not my doing, a fact 
of which the whole world should have been aware long 
ago/ 5 Brimful of the enthusiasm he had imbibed at the 

1 Luther to Amsdorf about March 11, 1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, 
p. 8 ff. The letter was published by Luther. 

" Quodsi Marti nus illud sibi proposuit, persuadere mundo Erasmum 
hoc agere callidis artibus et insidiosis cuniculis, ut omnes Christianos 
adducat in odium verce religionis, frustra nititur. Citius enim persuaserit 
omnibus se aut odio lymphatum esse aut mentis morbo teneri, aut a 
sinistro quopiam agitari genio." " Purgatio adversus Epistolam non 
S)briam Martini Lutheri" " Opp.," Lugd. Batav., t. 10, col. 1557. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 104 ff. 

4 " Die Reformation," 3, p. 204. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 041 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 162. 


Wart burg he wrote, from Wittenberg, on June 27, 1522, in 
a similar tone to Staupitz, who was then Benedictine Abbot 
at Salzburg : " God has undertaken it [the destruction of 
the abomination of the kingdom of the Pope] without our 
help and without human aid, merely by the Word. Its end 
has come before the Lord. The matter is beyond our reason 
or understanding, hence it is useless to expect all to grasp it. 
For the sake of God s power it is meet and just that people s 
minds be deeply stirred and that there should be great scandals 
and great signs. Dear father, do not let this disturb you; 
I am hopeful. You see God s plan in these matters and His 
Mighty Hand. Remember how my cause from the outset 
see med to the world doubtful and intolerable, and how, 
notwithstanding, from day to day it has gained the upper 
hand more and more. It will also gain the upper hand in 
what you now anticipate with misplaced apprehension ; 
just you wait and see. Satan feels the smart of the wound 
in dieted on him, that is why he rages so furiously and throws 
everything into confusion. But Christ Who began the work 
will tread him under foot in defiance of all the gates of 
hell," 1 

From the very outset of his career Luther had been 
paving the way for this delusion as to the true character of 
his Catholic opponents, his own higher mission and God s 
overthrow of all gainsaycrs. 

In 1518 he declared, as a sort of prelude to the idea of his 
Divine mission, that the Catholic Doctors who opposed him 
were sunk in " chaotic darkness," and that he preached 
"the one true light, Jesus Christ."- Even in 1517, in 
publishing his Resolutions, he had said of the setting up of 
his Indulgence Theses, that the Lord Himself had com 
pelled him to advance all this. " Let Christ sec to it whether 
it be His cause or mine." 3 

His pupils and Wittenberg adherents treasured up such 
assurances of his extraordinary mission in order to excite 
their own enthusiasm. Even Albert Durer, who was further 
removed from the sphere of his influence, spoke of him in 

1 " Brief wechsel," 3, p. 406 f. 

2 To Spalatin, May 18, 1518, " Briefweclisel," 1, p. 193. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 527 : " Christus viderit, suane sint an 


the third decade of the century as " a man enlightened by 
the Holy Ghost and one who has the Spirit of God." 1 Long 
after his death the chord which he had struck continued to 
vibrate among those who were devoted to him. On his 
tomb at Wittenberg might be read : " Taught by the 
Divine inspiration and called by God s Word, he disseminated 
throughout the world the new light of the Evangel." Old, 
orthodox Lutheranism honoured him as God s own messen 
ger ; the Protestant Pietists, at the turn of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, attributed to Luther, to quote the 
words of Gottfried Arnold, a truly " apostolic call," received 
by means of a " direct inspiration, impulse or Divine appre 
hension " ; this Divine mission, Arnold says, was " gener 
ally " admitted, although he himself, as a staunch Pietist, 
was willing to allow to Luther " the power and illumination 
of the Spirit " only during the period previous to the dispute 
with Carlstadt, who was equally enlightened from above. 
"For a while," says Arnold, i.e. for about seven years, 
Luther was " in very truth mightily guided by God and 
employed as His instrument." 2 

Other Lutheran theologians, Gerhard and Calovius, for 
instance, refused to see in Luther s case anything more than 
an indirect call ; about the middle of the eighteenth century 
the editor of Luther s Works, Consistorialrat Prof. J. G. 
Walch, of Jena, asserted openly of Luther s mission that 
he " was not called directly by God as had been the case 
with the Prophets and Apostles " ; his call had only in so 
far been beyond the ordinary in that " God, after decreeing 
in His Divine plans the Reformation, had chosen Luther 
as His tool " ; hence Luther s providential mission was 
only to be inferred from the " divinity of the Reformation," 
which, however, was apparent to all who " did not wantonly 
and maliciously shut their eyes to facts." Extraordinary 
gifts had not indeed been bestowed upon him by God, 
though he had all the " gifts pertaining to his office " in rich 
measure, and likewise the " sanctifying gifts " and the 
" spiritual graces " ; the latter Waleh then proceeds to 
dissect with painstaking exactitude. 3 

1 Vol. ii., p. 41 f. 

" Unparteiische Kirchen- uud Ketzerhistorie," 2, Frankfurt, 
1699, p. 42 (with the epitaph quoted above), and p. 75. 

" Ausf uhrliche Nachricht von M. Luthero," in vol. xxiv. of his 
edition of Luther, pp. 379, 376. 


Such a view marks the transition to the modern con 
ception of Luther so widely prevalent among Protestants 
to-day, which, while extolling him as the powerful instru 
ment of the Reformation, naturalises him, so to speak, and 
takes him down from the pedestal of the God-illumined 
teacher and prophet, who proclaims a Divine interpretation 
of Scripture binding upon all. 1 

1 How little this view of Luther fits in with his own estimate of 
himself may be seen from the following statements which occur m his 
Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1531, vol. i., in Irmischer s 
ed ) Heretics, owing to a delusion of Satan, consider their doctrines 
as absolutely certain ; founders of sects, more particularly, will never 
allow themselves to be converted by our proofs from Scripture, as we 
see in the case of the fanatics ; so well does the devil know how to 
assume the shape of Christ. " I, however, am persuaded by the Spirit 
of Christ, that my doctrine of Christian righteousness is true and certain 
(sum certus et persuasus per spiritum Christi, p. 288) ; therefore 
cannot listen to anything to the contrary." Hence " the Pope, the 
Cardinals, bishops, and monks and the whole synagogue of Satan, 
and in particular the founders of the Religious Orders (some of whom, 
nevertheless, God was able to save by a miracle), confuse men s con 
sciences and are worse than false apostles " (p. 83). Like St. Paul 
he pronounces anathema on all angels and men who rise up to destroy 
the Gospel preached by Paul ; of such subverters the world is now 
alas, full (p. 89). By the fanatics, he says (p. 90), he too was accounted 
such a one, though he only paid homage to pure Scripture as to his 
" Queen " (p. 93). " Like Paul I declare with the utmost certainty 
every doctrine to be anathema which differs from my own. . . . Its 
founder is the messenger of Satan, and is anathema." " Sic nos cum 
Paulo securissime et certissime pronuntiamus, omnem doctrinam esse 
maledictam, quce cum nostra dissonat, . . . Qui igitur aliud evangehum 
vel contrarium nostro docet, missum a diabolo et anathema esse con- 
fidenter dicimus " (p. 94). 

Just as in Paul s day the Galatians had become inconstant, s 
" some, who at the outset had accepted the Word with joy and among 
whom were many excellent men, had now suddenly fallen away, 
because the Lord had withdrawn His Grace (p. 99). They bring 
forward as objections against us the belief of the Church and of 
antiquity. But " should Peter and Paul themselves, or an angel from 
heaven, teach differently, yet I know for a certainty that my teaching 
is not human but Divine, i.e. that I ascribe all to God and nothing to 
man " (p. 102). " It is true that this very argument prejudices our 
cause to-day more than anything else. If we are to believe only him 
who teaches the pure Word of God, not the Pope, or the Fathers, or 
Luther, whom then are we to believe ? Who is to reassure man s 
conscience as to where the true Word of God is preached, whether 
amongst us or amongst our opponents ? For the latter also boast of 
having and teaching the true Word of God. We do not believe the 
Papists because they do not and cannot teach the Word of God. 
They, 011 the other hand, declare us to be the greatest heretics. \\ hat 
then is to be done ? Is every fanatic to be permitted to teach whatever 
comes into his head, while the world refuses to hear us or to endure our 
teaching ? " In spite of our assurances of the certainty of our teaching, 
he complains, they call our boasting devilish ; if we yield, then they, 
the Papists and the fanatics, grow proud and become still more 


Apocalyptico -Mystic Vesture. 

Against Catholics Luther also used certain pseudo- 
mystic elements drawn from his consciousness of a higher 
mission and based principally on Holy Scripture. 

In this respect his one-sided study of the Bible explains 
much, and should avail to mitigate our judgment on him. 
Stories and scenes from the Old Testament, incidents from 
the heroic times of the prophets, the lives of the patriarchs, 
to which he had devoted special Commentaries, so engrossed 
his mind, that, unwittingly, he came to clothe all in the garb 
of the prominent figures of Bible history. He was fond of 
imagining himself as one of those privileged heroes living 
in the same world of miracles as of yore. 

settled in their error. " Therefore let each one see that he is convinced 
of the truth of his own calling and doctrine, so that, like Paul, he may 
venture to say with absolute certainty and conviction : If an angel 
from heaven, etc." The revelation of the Gospel is made to each one 
individually, and is " effected by God Himself, yet the outward Word 
must precede and then the inward Spirit will follow. . . . The Holy 
Ghost is given for the revealing of the Word, but the outward Word 
must first have been heard " (p. 114). 

In opposition to the fanatics Luther is fond of tracing back his own 
great illumination, which had brought salvation to the world, to the 
preliminary action of the outward Word of Holy Scripture on his mind. 
Towards the end of his life he wrote (on May 7, 1545) to Amsdorf : 
" I glory in the certainty that the Son of God is seated at the right 
hand of the Father and most sweetly speaks to us here below by His 
Spirit even as He spoke to the Apostles, and that therefore we are His 
disciples, and hear the Word from His lips. . . . We hear the Divine 
Majesty speaking through the word of the Gospel. The angels and the 
whole creation of God congratulate us on this, while the Pope, that 
monster of the devil, wobbles in sadness and fear and all the gates of 
hell tremble with him " ("Briefe," 5, p. 737). At an earlier date, in 
1522, he had declared : " This is what you must say : Whether Luther 
is a saint or a scamp does not matter to me ; his doctrine is not his, 
but Christ s . . . leave the man out of the question, but acknowledge 
the doctrine" (" Von beider Gestallt des Sacrameiites," " Werke," 
Weirn. ed., 10, 2, p. 40). "I don t care in the very least whether a 
thousand Augustines or a thousand Harry- Churches are against me, 
but I am convinced that the true Church clings to the Word of God as 
I do " (" Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 256 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 379. "Against 
King Henry VIII." "I was he to whom God first revealed it" 
("Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 3, p. 8). 

J. A. Mohler rightly remarks : " Seeing that it was Luther s design 
to break with the existing, visible Church, it was essential that he 
should give the first place to the invisible Church and look on himself as 
directly sent by God." He points out that Calvin also appealed to 
a direct mission, and quotes from his answer to Sadolet s letter to the 
inhabitants of Geneva : " ministerium meum, quod Dei vocatione 
fundatum ac sanctum fuisse non dubito " ; " minister ium meum, quod 
quidern a Christo esse novi." " Opusc.," pp. 106, 107 (" Symbolik," 
49, n 1). 


If a she-ass could speak to Balaam then how much more can 
he Luther, proclaim the truth by the power from on high, even 
though the whole world should be astonished at the solitary 
figure who dares to stand up against it. He calls to mind, that 
the prophet Elias was almost alone in refusing to bow the knee 
to Baal. Discouraged by the opposition he met with from the 
Catholic party he was ready to liken himself to Jeremias the 
prophet, and like him to say : " We would have cured Babylon, 
but she is not healed, let us forsake her." 1 

In the New Testament Christ Himself and the Apostles were 
Luther s favourite types, because, like himself, they were against 
a whole world whose views were different. The fact that they 
were alone did not, he says, diminish their reputation, and their 
success proved their mission. Like Paul and Athanasius and 
Augustine it is his duty to withstand the stream of false opinions : 
" My rock, that on which I build, stands firm and will not totter 
or fall in spite of all the gates of hell ; of this I am certain. . . . 
Who knows what God wills to work .by our means ? " 

When, at different periods of his public career, and in 
preparing his various works for the press, he had occasion 
to ruminate on the biblical questions connected with Anti 
christ, he was wont also to consider the prophecies of Daniel 
on the end of the world. By dint of a diligent comparison 
of all the passages on the abominations of the latter days he 
came to find therein the corruption of the Papacy fully 
described, even down to the smallest details, with an 
account of its overthrow, and, consequently, also of his own 
mission. In the same way that he saw the impending fall 
of the Turkish Empire predicted, so also he recognised that 
the German Empire must shortly perish, since, as he had 

1 To Nicholas Amsdorf, November 7, 1543, " Brief e," ed. De Wette, 
5, p. 600, Jer. li. 9. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 477 ; Erl. ed., 24 2 , p. 16 (in 1520). 

Here again we find the " she-ass that rebuked the prophet. This 

enables us to understand his asseveration in the same year (" \\ erke, 

Weim. ed., 7, p. 277 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 213), that he was ready to die for 

his doctrine. Dollinger says of such assurances as the above : " Such 

a tone of unshaken firmness was in Luther s case largely due to the 

excitement caused by his polemics . . . and to the sense of his natural 

superiority" ("Luther, eine Skizze," p. 53; also " Kirchenlexikon, 

8 2 , col. 340). He points out that Luther had formed his peculiar 

views " during a period of painful confusion of mind and trouble of 

conscience," and that at times when Holy Scripture did not entirely 

satisfy him he would even seemingly set Christ against Scripture, as 

in the following passage : "You Papist, you insist much on Scripture, 

but it is no more than a servant of Christ, and to it I will not listen. 

But I am strong in Christ, Who is the true Lord and Emperor over 

Scripture. I care nothing for any texts of Scripture, even though you 

should bring forward many more against me ; for I have the Lord and 

Master of Scripture on my side," etc. (ibid., p. 59 = col. 344). 


learnt from Daniel, it was to receive no other constitution. 
As for the Papacy, at least according to one of the most 
forcible of his pronouncements, within two years " it would 
vanish like smoke, together with all its swarm of parasites." 

In Daniel viii. we read that a king will come, " of a shame 
less face, and understanding dark sentences." He will lay 
all things waste and destroy the mighty and the people of the 
saints according to his will. " Craft shall be successful in 
his hands and his heart shall be puffed up. He shall rise up 
against the prince of princes, and shall be broken without 
a hand." His coming will be " after many days." 1 The 
king thus prophesied is generally admitted to have been 
Antiochus Epiphanes, while the words " after many days " 
do not refer to the Last Day or to the End of the World, 
but to the latter end of the Jewish people. Luther, however, 
took these words and the whole prophecy in an erroneous, 
apocalyptic sense. He brought the description of the king 
into connection with the passages on Antichrist, and the 
great apostasy, in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, 
the Second Epistle to Timothy and the Second Epistle of 
Peter, etc. 2 There seemed to him not the slightest doubt 
that the Papacy, with its pernicious arrogance and revolt 
against God, was here described in minutest detail. 

This idea he finally elaborated while writing his violent 
work " On the Babylonish Captivity." He therein promised 
to tell the Papists things such as they had never heard before. 
This promise he fulfilled soon after in the detailed reply to 
Ambrosius Catharinus, which he hastily wrote in the month 
of March, 1521. In this Latin work he proved in detail to 
the satisfaction of learned readers, whether in Germany or 
abroad, that the Papacy was plainly depicted in the Bible 
as Antichrist, and likewise its approaching great fall. 3 

" I think that, through my exposition of the Prophet Daniel, 
I have carried out excellently what I promised the Papists to 
do." Thus to his friend Link, on the completion of the work. 4 

Daniel s Antichrist, according to Luther s interpretation, 

1 Daniel viii. 17 ff. 

2 2 Thess. ii. 3 ff. ; 2 Tim. iv. 3 ff. ; 2 Peter ii. 1 ff. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 777 f. ; " Opp. lat. var., [ 5, p. 392 seq., 
at the end of the " Responsio ad librum Ambrosii Catharini." 

4 " Id quod hac Danielis explanatione arbitror me prcestitisse egregie." 
Ibid. Hence what he wrote was intended in all .seriousness and in no 
sense as a joke. 


assumes various shapes. These, Luther assures us, are the 
different forms and masks of Romish superstition and Romish 
hypocrisy. Amongst these he reckons, as the last, the Universities, 
because they had made use of the Divine Word in order to deceive 
the world ; here he introduces the prophecy in Apocalypse ix., 
where a star falls from heaven, the fountains of the deep are 
opened, locusts with the strength of scorpions rise up out of a 
thick smoke, and a King reigns over them whose name is Apollyon, 
or destroyer. The star Luther takes to be Thomas Aquinas, the 
smoke is the empty words and opinions of Aristotle and the 
philosophers, the destructive locusts are the Universities, and 
Apollyon is their master, viz. Aristotle. As for Antichrist himself, 
i.e. the Papacy, Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His 
mouth, according to the word of St. Paul, which agrees with 
the " destruction without hands " prophesied by Daniel. " Thus 
the Pope and his kingdom are not to be destroyed by laymen, 
although they greatly dread this [at Rome] ; they are not 
worthy of so mild a chastisement, but are being reserved for 
the Second Coming of Christ because they have been, and still 
remain, His most furious enemies. Such is the end of Antichrist, 
who exalts himself above all things and does not fight with 
hands, but by the breath and spirit of Satan. Breath shall 
destroy breath, truth unmask deceit, for the unmasking of a lie 
means bringing it to nought." 1 

Apocalyptic fancies such as the above were to dog Luther s 
footsteps for the rest of his life. Both in his writings and 
in his " Table-Talk " he was never backward in putting forth 
his views on this abstruse subject. 

Of the ideas concerning the Papal Antichrist which, since 
Hus s time were current among the classes hostile to Rome, 2 
Luther selected and absorbed whatever was worst. Hus s 
work on the Church he read in February, 1520. The birth 
and growth of the theory in his mind even previous to this 
can, however, be traced step by step, and the process affords 
us a valuable insight into his mentality by revealing so well 
its pseudo-mystical element. 

We may distinguish between the earliest private and the 
earliest public appearance of Luther s idea of the Papal 
Antichrist. Its first unmistakable private trace is to be 
met with in a letter of December 11, 1518, to his brother- 
monk and sympathiser Wenceslaus Link. Luther was at 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 777 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 5, p, 392. 
Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 399, and our vol. ii., p. 56 f. 

2 Cp. H. Preuss, " Die Vorstellungen vom Antichrist im spateren 
Mittelalter, bei Luther und in der konfessionellen Polemik," Leipzig, 
1906. See our vol. ii., p. 56, n. 1. 


that time labouring under the emotion incident on his 
interrogation at Augsburg, of which he had just published 
the " Ada." Sending a copy to his friend he declares, that 
his pen is already at work at much greater things, that he 
knew not whence the ideas that filled his mind came, but 
that he would send Link whatever writings he published, 
that he might see " whether I am right in my surmise that 
the real Antichrist, according to Paul [2 Thess. ii., 3 ff.], rules 
at the Roman Curia." 1 The first public expression of this 
idea is, however, to be found in the pronouncement he made 
subsequent to the Leipzig Disputation in the summer of 
1519, viz. that if the Pope arrogated to himself alone the 
power of interpreting Scripture, then he was exalting 
himself above God s Word and was worse than Antichrist. 2 

Not long after Luther showed how deeply he had drunk 
in the ideas of Hus ; in February, 1520, he confessed to 
being a Husite, since both he and Staupitz too had hitherto 
taught precisely Hus s doctrine, though without having 
recognised him as their leader ; the plain, evangelical truth 
had been burnt a hundred years before in the person of 
Hus. " I am so astonished I know not what to think when 
I contemplate these terrible judgments of God upon men." 3 
On March 19 he sent to Spalatin a copy of Hus s writing, 
which had just been printed for the first time, praising the 
author as a " marvel of intellect and learning." 4 

In his conception of Antichrist Luther differed from 
antiquity in that he applied the term not so much to a 
person as to a system, or a condition of things : the ecclesi 
astical government of Rome, with its "pretensions " and its 
" corruption," appears to him in his apocalyptic dreams as 
the real Antichrist. That he finally came to see in the person 
of the Pope more and more an embodiment of Antichrist 
was, however, only to be expected ; when one wearer of 
the Papal tiara died, the mask of Antichrist passed to his 
successor, a matter of no difficulty since, as the end of the 
world was nigh, the number of the Popes was in any case 

As early as February 24, 1520, having previously found 

1 " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 316. 

2 " Epitome " against Prierias, " Werke," Weim. ed.. 6, p. 328 
" Opp. lat. var.," 4, p. 79. 

3 To Spalatin, February, 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 345. 

4 " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 262 ; cp. ibid., n. 3. 


new fuel for his ire in the perusal of Hutten s edition of 
Lorenzo Valla s dissertation against the Donation of 
Consfantine, he wrote to Spalatin : 1 " Nothing is too 
utterly monstrous not to be acceptable at Rome ; 2 of 
the impudent forgery of the Donation they have made 
a dogma [!]. I have come to such a pass that I can 
scarcely doubt that the Pope is the real Antichrist 
whom the world, according to the accepted view, awaits. 
His life, behaviour, words and laws all fit the^ char 
acter too well. But more of this when we meet." The 
allusion to the "accepted view" may refer to a work, 
reprinted at Erfurt in 1516, and which Luther must certainly 
have known, viz. the " Booklet on the Life and Rule of 
End-Christ as Divinely decreed, how he corrupteth the 
world through his false teaching and devilish counsel, and 
how, after this, the two prophets Enoch and Hclyas shall 
win back Christendom by preaching the Christian faith." 

Greater even than the influence of such writings, in con 
firming him in his persuasion that the Pope was Antichrist, 
was that of the excitement caused by his polemics. We 
have already had occasion to speak of his stormy replies to 
the " Epitome " of Silvester Prierias and the controversial 
pamphlet of Augustine Alveld the Franciscan friar. In the 
latter rejoinder he promises to handle the Papacy " merci 
lessly " and to belabour Antichrist as he deserves. " Circum 
stances demand imperatively that the veil be torn from the 
mysteries of Antichrist ; indeed, in their effrontery they 
themselves refuse to be any longer shrouded in darkness." 
Speaking of Prierias, who was a Roman, he says : 
believe that at Rome they have all gone stark, staring mad, 
and become senseless fools, stocks, stones, devils and a 
very hell " ; "what now can we expect from Rome where 
such a monster is permitted to take his place in the Church ? " 
In his replies to Prierias and Alveld he depicts Antichrist 
in the worst colours to be supplied by a vivid imagination 
and an over-mastering fury : If such things are taught in 
Rome, then " the veritable Antichrist is indeed seated in the 
Temple of God, and rules in the purple-clad Babylon at 
Rome, while the Roman Curia is the synagogue of Satan. . . . 

1 " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 332. 

2 " Ne quid monstrosissimi monstri desU," etc. 

3 To Spalatin (previous to June 8), 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 414. 



Who can Antichrist be, if not such a Pope ? O Satan, Satan, 
how greatly dost thou abuse the patience of thy Creator to 
thine own destruction ! " 1 

Thc anger of the sensitive and excitable Wittenberg pro 
fessor had been roused by contradiction, particularly by the 
tract which hailed from Home, but the arrival of the Bull of 
Excommunication moved him to the very depths of his soul 
and led him to commit to writing the most hateful travesties 
of the Roman Papacy. 

In the storm and stress of the struggle, which in the latter 
half of 1520 produced the so-called great Reformation works, 
the Antichrist theory, in its final form, was made to serve 
as a bulwark against the Papal excommunication and its 
consequences. Luther drops all qualifications and hence 
forth his assertions are positive. The wider becomes the 
breach separating him from Rome, the blacker must he 
paint his opponents in order to justify himself before the 
world and to his own satisfaction. Previous to its publica 
tion he summed up the contents of his " An den christlichen 
Adel " as follows : " There the Pope is severely mauled and 
treated as Antichrist." 2 As a matter of fact, the com 
parison is so startling that he could well speak of the booklet 
as "a trumpet-blast against the world-destroying tyranny 
of the Roman Antichrist," 3 In the writing " On the Baby 
lonish Captivity," a few weeks later, he exclaims : " Now 
I know and am certain that the Papacy is the empire of 
Babylon." The Popes arc Antichrists and desire to be 
honoured in the stead of Christ. . . . The Papacy is nothing 
but the empire of Babylon and of the veritable Antichrist, 
because with its doctrines and laws it merely makes sin 
more plentiful ; hence the Pope is the man of sin and the 
son of destruction. " 4 

Hereby he had prepared the way for his attack upon 

Leo the Tenth s Bull of Excommunication, which he 

published in German and Latin at the end of October, 1520, 

under the title, " Widder die Bullen des Endchrists " and 

Adversus execrdbilem Antichristi bullam." 6 Such a name 

" Epitome " against Prierias, loc. cit. 

2 To Spalatin, August 3, 1520, " Brief wechsel," 2, p. 456. 

3 To the same, August 5, 1520, ibid., p. 457. 

: Werke," Weim. ed., G, p. 498, 537 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 5, p. 17, 70. 
5 See vol. ii., p. 49. The Latin text appeared a little before the 


was well calculated to strike the fancy of the masses, and 
there cannot be the slightest doubt that Luther welcomed 
it as a taking, popular cry. 

It is easy to meet the objection that the Papal Antichrist 
was nothing more to Luther than a serviceable catchword, 
and that he never meant it seriously. That such was not 
the case we have abundantly proved already ; on the con 
trary, we have here a clear outgrowth of his pseudo-mysti 
cism. He ever preserved it as a sacred possession, and it 
found its way in due season into the Schmalkald Articles 1 
and into the Notes Luther appended to his German Bible. 2 
The idea, which never left him, of the world s approaching 
enc l with this we shall deal at greater length in vol. v., 
xxxi. 2 is without a doubt closely linked with his cherished 
theory of his being the revealer of Antichrist and the chosen 
instrument of God for averting His malice in the latter days. 

The Bible assures us, according to Luther, that, " after the 
downfall of the Pope and the delivery of the poor, no one on 
earth would be feared as a tyrant " (Psalm x. 18) ; now, he 
continues, " this would not be possible were the world to continue 
after the Pope s fall, for the world cannot exist without tyrants. 
And thus the prophet agrees with the Apostle that Christ at His 
coming [i.e. His second coming, for the Last Judgment] wdll 
upset the holy Roman Chair. God grant this happen speedily. 
Amen." 3 

In 1541, Luther wrote a Latin essay on the Chronology 
of the World, which, in 1550, was published in German by 
Johann Aurifaber under the title of " Luthers Chronica." 
This work, which witnesses both to Luther s industry and 
to his interest in history, is also made to serve its author s 
views on Antichrist. Towards the end, alluding to what lie 
had already said concerning the several periods of the world s 
history, he adds, that it was "to be hoped that the end 
of the world was drawing near, for the sixth millenary of its 
history would not be completed, any more than the three days 
between Christ s death and resurrection." Besides, " at 110 
other time had greater and more numerous signs taken place, 
which gives us a certain hope that the Last Day is at the very 
door." 4 Of the year A.D. 1000 we here read: "The Roman 

1 " Symbolische Biicher, 10 " pp. 308, 324, 337, and in particular 
p. 336, No. 39. 

2 In the so-called " Lufft Bible," Luther applies Daniel xii. to the 
Papal Antichrist. Kawerau, " Theol. Literaturztng.," 1884, p. 2(59. 

"Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 719; Erl. ed., 24--, p. 203, at the 
beginning of the work " Bulla Coence Domini" of 1522. See other 
references in Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, pp. 640, 696 ; ibid., 2, pp. 156, 283, 
529, 586. * " Werke," Walch s ed., 14, p. 1278. 


Bishop becometh Antichrist, thanks to the power of the 
sword." 1 

In the same year his tireless pen, amongst other writings, pro 
duced a Commentary on Daniel xii. concerning the " end of the 
days," theabomination of desolation and the general retribution. 
The Papal Antichrist here again supplies him with abundant 
exemplifications of the fulfilment of the prophecy ; the signs 
foretold to herald the destruction of this Empire, so hostile to 
God, had almost all been accomplished, and the great day was 
at hand. 

Other people, and, among them some of the great lights of 
Catholicism, both before and after Luther s day, have erred in 
their exegesis of Antichrist and been led to expect prematurely 
the end of the world. Yet only in Luther do we find united a 
fanatical expectation of the end with a minute acquaintance 
with its every detail, scriptural demonstrations with anxious 
observation of the events of the times, all steeped in the deadliest 
hatred of that mortal enemy the Papacy. 

His conviction that God was proving his mission by signs and 
wonders sometimes assumed unfortunate forms, for instance, 
when he superstitionsly seeks its attestation in incidents of his 
own day. 

We see an example of this in the meaning he attached to the 
huge whale driven ashore near Haarlem, in which he saw a sign 
of God s wrath against the Papists. " The Lord has given 
them an ominous sign," he writes, on June 13, 1522, to Speratus, 
"if so be they enter into themselves and do penance. For He 
has cast a sea monster called a whale, 70 feet in length and 35 
feet in girth, on the shore near Haarlem. Such a monster it is 
usual to regard as a certain sign of wrath. May God have mercy 
on them and on us." 2 Other natural phenomena, amongst them 
an earthquake in Spain, led him to write as follows to Spalatin 
at the beginning of the following year : " Don t think that I 
shall creep back into a corner however much Behemoth and his 
crew may rage. New and awful portents occur day by day, and 
you have doubtless heard of the earthquake in Spain." 3 

When, in 1536, extraordinary deeds were narrated of a girl at 
Frankfurt-on-the-Oder, and attributed to demoniacal possession 
(she could, for instance, produce coins from all sorts of impossible 
places, even out of men s beards), Luther, we are told, utilised 
in the pulpit these terrible signs and portents, " as a warning to 
abandoned persons who deem themselves secure, in order that 
now, at last, they may begin to fear God and to put their trust in 

1 " Werke," Walch s ed., 14, p. 1265 f. 

2 " Brief wechsel," 3, p. 397. 

3 January 12, 1523, ibid., 4, p. 62. 

4 Cp. " Analecta Lutherana," ed. Kolde, p. 242, and the notes of 
Enders (in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 11, p. 18) on the letter of the 
Frankfurt preacher Andreas Ebert to Luther, dealing with these 
phenomena. See also N. Paulus, " Lit. Beilage " to the t; Koln. 
Volksztng.," 1908, No. 30. 


At Freiberg in Saxony, towards the end of 1522, a cow 
was delivered of a deformed calf. On this becoming known, 
people, as was then the vogue, set about discovering the 
meaning of the portent. An astrologer of Prague first took 
the extraordinary phenomenon to refer to Luther, whose 
hateful and wicked behaviour was portrayed in the mis 
carriage. Luther, on the other hand, discovered that the 
monstrosity really represented a naked calf clothed in a 
cowl (the skin was drawn up into strange creases on the 
back), and that it therefore indicated the monkish state, of 
the worthlessness of which it was a true picture, and God s 
wrath against monasticism. In a tract published in the 
spring, 1523, he compared in such detail and with such 
wealth of fancy the creature to the monks that the work 
itself was termed monstrous. 1 The cowl represented the 
monkish worship, "with prayers, Masses, chanting and 
fasting," which they perform to the calf, i.e. " to the false 
idol in their lying hearts " ; just as the calf cats nothing 
but grass, so " they fatten on sensual enjoyments here on 
earth." " The cowl over the hind-quarters of the calf is 
torn," this signifies the monks "impurity"; the calf s 
legs are "their impudent Doctors" and pillars; the calf 
assumes the attitude of a preacher, which means that their 
preaching is despicable ; it is also blind because they are 
blind ; it has ears, and these signify the abuse of the confes 
sional ; with the horns with which it is provided it shall 
break down their power ; the tightening of the cowl around 
its neck signifies their obstinacy, etc. A woodcut of the 
calf helped the reader to understand the mysteries better. 
To show that he meant it all in deadly earnest, lie ad 
duced texts from Scripture which might prove how " well- 
grounded " was his interpretation. He declares, that he 
only speaks of what he is quite sure, and that he refrains 
from a further, i.e. a prophetic, interpretation of the " Monk- 
Calf " because it was not sufficiently certain, although 
" God gives us to understand by these portents that some 
great misfortune and change is imminent," His hope is 
that this change might be the coming of the Last Day, 
" since many signs have so far coincided." Hence his 
1 "Deuttung der czwo grewlichen Figuren Bapstesels czu Rom und 
Munclikalbs zu Freyberg funden. Plrilippus Melanchtlioii. Doctor 
Martimis Luther." Wittenberg, 1523. " Werke," Weim. ed., 1 L p. 
369 ft. ; Erl. ed., 29, p. 2 ff. 


strange delusion concerning the calf goes hand in hand with 
his habitual one concerning the approaching end of the 

It would be to misapprehend the whole character of the 
writing to assert, as has recently been done by an historian 
of Luther, that the author was merely joking, and that what 
he says of the Monk-Calf was simply a jest at the expense of 
the Pope and the monks. As a matter of fact, every line of 
the work protests against such a misrepresentation of the 
author and his prophetic mysticism, and no one can read the 
pamphlet without being struck by the entire seriousness 
which it breathes. 

The tragic earnestness of the whole is evident in the very 
first pages, where Luther allows a friend to give his own 
interpretation of a similar abortion (the Pope-Ass) born in 
Italy. Here the writer is no other than the learned Humanist 
Melanchthon, who, like Luther, with the help of a wood 
cut, describes and explains the portent. Pope- Ass and 
Monk-Calf made the round of Germany together, in suc 
cessive editions. Melanchthon, scholar though he was, is 
not one whit less earnest in the significance he attaches to 
the " Pope-Ass found dead in 1496 in the Tiber at Rome." 

After this double work, so little to the credit of German 
literature, had frequently been reprinted, Luther, in 1535, 
added two additional pages to Melanchthon s text with a 
corroboration entitled : " Dr. Martin Luther s Amen to 
the interpretation of the Pope- Ass." He here accepts 
entirely Melanchthon s exposition, which was more than the 
latter was willing to do for Luther s interpretation of the 
Monk-Calf. Melanchthon s opinion, for which perhaps more 
might be said, was that the misshapen calf stood for the 
corruption of the Lutheran teaching by sensuality and 
perverse doctrine, iconoclast violence and revolutionary 
peasant movements. 1 

In his " Amen " to Melanchthon s Pope- Ass, Luther 
writes : " The Sublime, Divine Wisdom Itself " " created 
this hideous, shocking and horrible image." " Well may the 
whole world be affrighted and tremble." " People are 
terrified if a spirit or devil appears, or makes a clatter in a 
corner, though this is but mere child s play compared with 
such an abomination, wherein God manifests Himself 
1 To Carnerarius, April 10, 1525. " Corp. ref.," 1, p. 738. 


openly and shows Himself so cruel. Great indeed is the 
wrath which must be impending over the Papacy." 1 

In his Church-postils Luther spoke of the " Pope- Ass " with 
an earnestness calculated to make a profound impression upon 
the susceptible. He referred to the " dreadful beast which the 
Tiber had cast up at Rome some years before, with an ass s head, 
a body like a woman s, an elephant s foot for a right hand, with 
fish scales on its legs, and a dragon s head at its rear, etc. All 
this signified the Papacy and the great wrath and chastisement 
of God. Signs in such number portend something greater than 
our reason can conceive." 2 

As Luther makes such frequent use of the Pope-Ass, which he 
was instrumental in immortalising, for instance, in the frightful 
abuse of the Pope contained in " Das Bapstum zu Rom vom 
Teuffel gestifft," 3 and also circulated a woodcut of it in his book 
of caricatures of the Papacy, adding some derisive verses, 4 
which woodcut was afterwards reproduced from this or the 
earlier publication by other opponents of the Papacy, both in 
Germany and abroad, 5 some particulars concerning the previous 
history of the Pope- Ass may here not be out of place. 

The dead beast was said to have been left stranded on the 
banks of the Tiber in January, 1496, under the pontificate of 
Pope Alexander VI., when Italy was in a state of great distress. 
The find made a profound impression, as was only to be expected 
in those days of excitement and superstition; it was greatly 
exaggerated, and, at an early date, interpreted in various ways. 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 29, p. 7. 

2 Ibid., 10 2 , p. 65. 

3 "Oh, dear little Pope- Ass, don t try to lick ... for you might 
fall and break a leg or do something else, and then all the world would 
laugh at you and say : For shame, look what a mess the Pope- Ass 
has got itself into." " You are a rude ass, you Pope- Ass, and that you 
will ever remain." " When I [the Pope- Ass] bray, hee-haw, hee-haw, 
or relieve myself in the way of nature, they must take it all as articles 
of faith . . . but all is sealed with devil s ordure in the Decretals 
and written in the Pope-Ass s dung" (" Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , pp. 148 
seq., 169). One word, used in this connection, and spelt by Luther 
" Fartz," he employs in endless variations. Pope Paul III. he calls 
" Eselfartz-Bapst," " Bapst Fartzesel," " Fartzesel-Bapst " and 
" Eselbapstfartz." " We see," remarks Conrad Lange, " how the 
apparition of the Roman monstrosity continued to act upon his 
imagination, and how, even at the close of his life, it still appeared 
to him suited to excite the masses in the religious struggle." Der 
Papstesel, ein Beitrag zur Kultur- und Kunstgesch. des Reformations- 
zeitalters." With four illustrations, Gottingen, 1891, p. 88. 

4 " Abbildung des Bapstum," by Martin Luther, 1545. The verses 
run as follows : 

" Was Gott selbs von dem Bapstum helt, 
Zeigt dis schrecklich Bild hie gestellt. 
Dafur jederman grawen solt, 
Wenn ers zu Hertzen nemen wolt." 

5 Cp. Lange, ibid., p. 92 ff. 


The oldest description is to be met with in the Venetian Annals 
of Malipiero, where the account is that given by the ambassador 
of the Republic at Rome. l The monster was also portrayed in 
stone in the Cathedral of Como, as an omen, so it would seem, of 
the misfortunes of the day, and of those yet to be expected. 2 
At Rome itself political opponents of Alexander VI. made use of 
it in their campaign against a Pope they hated, by circulating a 
lampoon the oldest extant containing a caricature of the 
event. A facsimile of this cut has come down to us in the shape 
of a copper plate made in 1498 by Wenzel of Olmiitz.* In all 
likelihood a copy of this very plate was sent to Luther at the 
beginning of 1523 by the Bohemian Brethren. 

Melanchthon and Luther diverged in their use of this picture 
from the older and more harmless interpretation, i.e. that which 
saw m it a reference to earthly trials, or a judgment on the 
politics of the Pope. They, on the contrary, regarded it as a 
denunciation by heaven of the Papacy itself and of the Roman 
Church with all its " abominations." Quite possibly the transition 
had been quietly effected by the Bohemian Brethren. Luther 
however, says Lange, " was the first to make it public property." 
The Pope- Ass is for this reason the most interesting example 
the whole teratological literature, because in it we can see the 
transition visibly effected." The same author detects in the 
joint work of the two Wittenbergers " a polemical tone hitherto 
unheard of " ; of Melanchthon s Pope- Ass, he says : "It is 
probably the most unworthy work we have of Melanchthon s 
He himself naturally believed implicitly in what he wrote. . . . 
I hat Melanchthon acquitted himself of his task with particular 
skill cannot be affirmed." 4 

Just as the Monk-Calf had been applied to Luther himself 
previous to his own polemical interpretation of it, so, after the 
appearance of his and Melanchthon s joint publication, both 
the Calf and the Ass were repeatedly taken by the Catholic 
controversialists to represent Luther and his innovations. The 
sixteenth century, as already hinted, loved to dwell upon and 
expound such freaks of nature. Authors of repute had done so 

f r ?. uther at least to the extent of m aking such the subject 
ol indifferent compositions, as the poet J. Franciscus Vitalis of 
Palermo had done (" De monstro nato ") in the case of a mon 
strosity said to have been born at Ravenna in 1511 or 1512 
Humanist Jacob Locher, at the turn of the fifteenth and 
sixteenth^ centuries, dealt with a similar case in his " Carmen 
tieroicum. Conrad Lycosthenes published at Basle, in 1557, a 
compendium of the prodigies of nature (" Prodigiorum ac osten- 
torum chromcon "), in which he instances a large number of such 
freaks famous even before Luther s day. Of the earlier Humanists 
bebastian Brant composed some Elegies on the Marvels of Nature. 
Ine Wittenberg work on the Calf and Ass must be put in its 

" Annali Veneti " (" Archivio storico italiano," 7, p 422) Lanee 
ibid " p " 18 2 Picture in Lange, ibid!, plate i2. 

3 Ibid., plate 1. * p. 84 seq. 


growth of its time. 

3 Proofs of the Divine Mission. Miracles and Prophecies 
How was Luther to give actual proof of the reality of his 
call and of his mission to introduce such far-read 
ecclesiastical innovations ? 

Luther himself, indirectly, invited his hearers to ask this 
question concerning his calling. " Whoever teaches anything 
new or strange " must be " called to the office of preacher 
he frequently declares of those new doctrines which differed 
from his own ; no one who has not a legitimate mission will 
be able to withstand the devil, but on the contrary will 
cast down to hell. 1 Even in the case of the ordinary and 
regular office, Luther demands a legitimate mission ; for t 
office of extraordinary messenger of God, he is still mo 
severe For here it is a question of the extraordinary preacl 
in* of truths previously unknown or universally forgot! 
^questioned, and of the ^introduction of doctrine, 
he rightly requires that whoever wishes to introduce any 
thing new or to teach something different from the common, 
must be able to appeal to miracles in support of his vocation 
If he is unable to do this, let him pack up and depart. 
Elsewhere, as he correctly puts it : " Where God wills to 
alter the ordinary ways, He ever performs miracles. - 

vol. i., p. 225 f.) 

His teaching is, " There are two sorts of vocations to the 
office of preacher"; one takes place without any human 
means by God alone [the extraordinary call], the other 
ordinary] is effected by man as well as by God. 
not to be credited unless attested by miracles such as wei 
performed by Christ and His Apostles. Hence, if they come 
and say God has called them, that the Holy Ghost urges 
them, and they are forced to preach, let us ask them bol 

1 " Werke " Weim ed., 20, p. 724 : " In malam rem abeat." Cp. 
in general tt ^Uenberg serm<L against Carlstadt and the fanatics 
which appeared under the title " Acht Sermone," Vv erke, Vv eiin. ed., 
10, 3, p. 1 ff. ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 202 ff. 

2 u Werke " Weim. ed., 20, p. 724. 

3 To the Council and congregation of Muhlhausen August .1, 
1524, "Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 240; Erl. ed., 53, p. 2oo ( Briel 
wechsel," 4, p. 377). 


What signs do you perform that we may believe you ? 5?1 
(Mark xvi. 20). Logically enough Luther also demanded 
miracles of Carlstadt, Miinzer and the Anabaptists. 

Which of the two kinds of vocation must we see in Luther s 
case ? Was his the ordinary one, which keeps to the well- 
trodden path, or the extraordinary one, which " strikes out 
a new way " ? Simple as the question appears, it is never 
theless difficult to give a straight answer in Luther s own 

As has been proved by Bellinger in his work on the 
Reformation, and as was well seen even by earlier polemical 
writers, Luther s statements concerning his own mission 
were not remarkable for consistency. No less than fourteen 
variations have been counted, though, naturally, they do 
not involve as many changes of opinion. 2 We shall be 
nearest to the truth if we assume his mission to have been 
an extraordinary and unusual one. As an ordinary one 
it certainly could not be regarded, seeing the novelty of his 
teaching, and that he himself, as "Evangelist by God s 
Grace " (see vol. iv., xxvi., 4), professed to be introducing a 
doctrine long misunderstood and forgotten. Besides, an 
ordinary call could only have emanated from the actually 
existing ecclesiastical authorities, with whom Luther had 
altogether broken. In this connection Luther himself, on 
one occasion, comes surprisingly near the Catholic view 
concerning the right of call invested in the bishops as the 
successors of the Apostles, and declares that " not for a 
hundred thousand worlds would he interfere with the office 
of a bishop without a special command." 3 

The assumption of an extraordinary call offers, however, 
an insuperable difficulty which cannot fail to present itself 
after what has been said. No extraordinary attestation on the 
part of heaven is forthcoming, nor any miracle which might 
have confirmed Luther s doctrine ; God s witness on behalf 
of His messenger by signs or prophecies, such as those of 
Christ, of the Apostles and of many of the Saints, was 
lacking in Luther s case, and so was that sanctity of life 
to be expected of a divinely commissioned teacher whose 
mission it is to bring men to the truth. 

1 " Werke," Erl. eel., 15 2 , p. 5. 

2 Dollinger, " Die Reformation," 3, p. 205 ft 

"Werke," Weim. ed., 28, p. 248 ; Erl ed., 50, p. 292, in the 
exposition of John xviii. 


No one now believes in the existence of any aetual and 
authentic miracle performed by Luther, or in any i *1 
prophecy, whether about or by him. \Vith the tales of 
miracles which once found favour among credulous Pieti 
history has no concern. Though here and there some 
credence still attaches to the alleged prediction of 
which Luther himself appealed to,* viz. that after the goose 
(Hus=goose) would come a swan, yet historical criticis 
has already dealt quite sufficiently with it. We should run 
the risk of exposing Luther to ridicule were we to enumerate 
and reduce to their real value the alleged miracles by which, 
for instance, he was convinced his life was preserved in the 
poisoned pulpits of the Papists, or the various rnonstra 
and " portenta " which accompanied his preaching, 
prodigies the Pope-Ass and the Monk-Calf are fair sample: 
(above, p. 148 ff.). 2 

In reply to the attempts made, more particularly in the 
davs of Protestant orthodoxy in the sixteenth century, t 
compare the rapid spread of Protestantism with the miracle 
of the rapid propagation of Christianity in early days, it 
rightly been pointed out, that the comparison is a lame on 
the Church of Christ spread because her moral power enable, 
her to impose on a proud world mysteries which transcend 
all human reason ; on a world sunk in every lust and vie 
a moral law demanding a continual struggle against all 
passions and desires of the heart ; her conquest of the world 
was achieved without secular aid or support, in tact, n 
very teeth of the great ones of the earth who for age 
persecuted her ; yet during this struggle she laid her found* 
tions in the unity of the one faith and one hierarchy ; 
spread, then, was truly miraculous. 

Luther, on the other hand, so his opponents urged, by 11 
opposition to ecclesiastical authority and his principle c 
free interpretation of Scripture, was casting humility to the 
winds and setting up the individual as the highest authority 
in matters of religion ; thanks to his " evangelical freedom 
he felt justified in deriding as holiness-by-works much that 
in Christianity was a burden or troublesome ; on the ( 
hand, by his doctrine of imputation, he cast the man 

* Cp , for instance, " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 387 ; Erl. ed. f 
25 2 p 87. " Auff das vermeint Kciserlich Edict. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 11, p. 369 ff. ; Erl. ed., 29, p. 2 it. 


Christ s righteousness over all the doings and omissions of 
believers ; from the very birth of his movement he had 
sought his principal support in the favour of the Princes, 
whom, in due course, he invested with supreme authority in 
the Church ; the spread of Lutheranism was not the spread 
of a united Church, but, on the contrary, such was the 
diversity of opinions that Jacob Andrese, a Protestant 
preacher, could say, in 1576, in a public address, that it 
would be difficult to find a pastor who held the same faith as 
his sexton. 1 From all this the Church s sixteenth-century 
apologists concluded that the spread of Luther s teaching 
was not at all miraculous. 

Concerning the miracle spoken of above, and miracles in general 
as proofs of the truth, Luther expresses himself in the third 
sermon on the Ascension, embodied in his Church-postils. The 
occasion was furnished by the words of Our Lord : " These signs 
shall follow those who believe " (Mark xvi. 17), and by the 
pertinent question addressed to him by the fanatics and other 
opponents : Where are your miracles ? 

With remarkable assurance he will have it, that to put such a 
question to him was quite " idle " ; miracles enough had taken 
place when Christianity was first preached to make good the 
words spoken by Our Lord ; at the present day the Gospel had 
no further need of them ; such outward signs had been suitable 
" for the heathen," whereas, now, the Gospel had been " pro 
claimed everywhere." He does not see that though the Gospel had 
certainly been proclaimed everywhere this was was not his ow r n 
particular Gospel or Evangel, and that he is therefore begging 
the question. He continues quite undismayed : Miracles may 
nevertheless take place, and do, as a matter of fact, occur 
under the Evangel, for instance, the driving out of devils and the 
healing of sicknesses. " The best and greatest miracle " is, 
however, the spread and preservation of my doctrine in spite of 
the assaults of devils, tyrants and fanatics, in spite of flesh and 
blood, of the " Pope, the Turk and his myrmidons." Is it no 
miracle, that " so many die cheerfully in Christ " in this faith ? 
Compared with this miracle, declares the orator, those miracles 
which appeal to the senses are mere child s play ; this is a 
" miracle beyond all miracles " ; well might people be astonished 
at the survival of his doctrine " when a hundred thousand devils 
were striving against it." It was only to be expected that this 
miracle should be blasphemed by an unbelieving world, but 
" were we to perform the most palpable miracles, they would 
still despise them." This is why God does not work them 
through us, just as Christ Himself, although able to perform 
miracles with the greatest ease, once refused to give the Jews 

1 I. Andreas " Oratio de studio sacr. litt. in acad. Livsiensi recitata" 
Tubing., 1577, c. 2. 


" any other sign than that of the Prophet Jonas," i.e. the resur 
rection. Luther concludes with an explanation of Christ s 
refusal and of the miracle of Jonas. 1 

Hence he is willing to allow the absence of " palpable 
miracles " in support of his Evangel, in default of which 
however, he instances the miracle of his great success. And 
yet according to his own showing, such an attestation by 
palpable miracles would have been eminently desirable. 
Germany, he says, from the early days of her conversion 
down to his own time, had never been in possession of 
Christianity, because the real Gospel, i.e. the doctrine of 
Justification, had remained unknown. Only now for the 
first time had the Gospel been revealed in all its purity, 
thanks to his study of Scripture. 2 At the Council of Nicsea 
he declares, " there was not one who had even tasted of the 
Divine Spirit"; even the Council of the Apostles at 
Jerusalem was not above suspicion, seeing that it had seen 
fit to discuss works and traditions rather than faith. 3 

Thus he requires that his unheard-of claims, albeit not 
attested by any display of miracles, should be accepted 
simply on his own assurance that his teaching was based on 
Holy Scripture. " There is no need for us to work wonders, 
for our teaching is already confirmed [by Holy Scripture] 
and is no new thing." 4 

Owing to the lack of any Divine attestation, Luther often 
preferred to describe his mission as an ordinary one. In this 
case he derives his vocation to teach from his degree of 
Doctor of Theology and from the authority given him by 
the authorities to preach. "I, Dr. Martin," he says, for 
instance, speaking of his doctorate, " was called and com 
pelled thereto; for I was forced to become a Doctor 

i " Werke," Erl. ed., 12, p. 218-221. Cp. Erl. ed., 12 2 , p. 235-238 ; 

- -,, v, _, od, 15, p. 39 ; Erl. ed, 22, p 184 : " All the 
world is astonished and is obliged to confess that we have the Gospel 
almost as pure and unchanged as in the time of the Apostles, m fact, in 
its primitive purity." 

3 Werke," Weim. ed, 10, 2, p. 105 ff. ; Erl. ed, 28, p. 141 ff. 
Cp. ibid., 15, p. 39 ff. = 22, pp. 184, 186; 8, p. 117 = 27, p. 331 ; 15, 
p 584 ff. = 19, p. 186 ff. "Hence it is plain that the Councils are 
uncertain and not to be counted on. For not one was so pure that it 
did not add to or take away from the faith. ... The Council of the 
Apostles, though the first and purest, left something to be c 
though it did no harm." 

* " Werke," Weim. ed., 16, p. 36 ; Erl. ed, 35, p. 61. 


[of Holy Scripture] against my will and simply out of 
obedience." 1 Elsewhere, however, he declares that the 
doctorate was by no means sufficient to enable one to bid 
defiance to the devil, or to equip a man in conscience for the 
task of preaching. 2 He was still further confirmed in this 
belief when he realised that he owed his doctorate to that 
very Church which he represented as the Kingdom of Anti 
christ and a mere Babylon. He himself stigmatised his 
degree as the " mark of the Beast," and rejoiced that the 
excommunication had cancelled this papistical title. 

Neither could the want of a call be supplied by the 
authorisation of the Wittenberg Council, upon which at times 
Luther Avas wont to lay stress. He himself hesitated to 
allow that magistrates or Princes could give a call, par 
ticularly where the teaching of any of those thus appointed 
by the magistrates ran counter to his own. Even though 
their teaching agreed entirely with the views of the secular 
authorities, their mission was in his eyes quite invalid. He 
even had frequent cause to complain, that the Evangel was 
greatly hampered by the interference of the secular author 
ities and by their sending out as preachers those who had no 
real call, and were utterly unfitted for the office. 

After what has gone before, we can readily understand 
how Luther came to pass over in silence the question of his 
mission and to appeal directly to his preaching of the truth 
as the sign of his vocation; he does not seem to have 
perceived that the main point was to establish a criterion 
for the recognition of the truth, short of which anyone would 
be at liberty to set up his pet error as the " truth." " The 
first," though not the only condition, was, he declared, 
"that the preacher should have an office, be convinced 
that he was called and sent, and that what he did was done 
for the sake of his office " ; seeing, however, that even the 
Papists fulfilled these conditions, Luther usually required 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 386 = 25 2 p 87 

Cp. ibid., 10, 2, p. 105 seq. = 28, p. 143. Cp. ibid., 28, p. 248 = 50 
p. 292 : Because I am a doctor of Holy Scripture I have a right to do 
so [even to interfere in the office of the bishops] ; for I have sworn to 
teach the truth. Continuation of the passage quoted above p 154 n 3 
Thomas Miinzer he reproaches with having no call. Of the necessity 
of a call he says : " If things went ill in my house and my next-door 
neighbour were to break in and claim a right to settle matters, surely 
I should have something to say." 


in addition that the preachers " be certain they have God s 
Word on their side." 1 

In 1522 he declared any questioning of his vocation to 
be mere perversity, for, of his call, no creature had a right 
to judge. We cannot but quote again this assurance, " My 
doctrine is not to be judged by any man, nor even by the 
angels ; because I am certain of it, I will judge you and the 
angels likewise, as St. Paul says (Gal. i. 8), and whosoever 
does not accept my teaching will not arrive at blessedness. 
For it is God s and not mine, therefore my judgment is God s 
and not mine." 2 

Such statements arc aids to the understanding of his 
mode of thought, but there are other traits in his mental 
history relating to the confirmation of his Divine calling. 

Such, for instance, is his account of the miracles by which 
the flight of certain nuns from their convents was happily 

The miracle which was wrought on behalf of the nun Florentina, 
and in confirmation of the new Evangel, is famous. Luther 
himself, in March, 1524, published the story according to the 
account given by the nun herself, and dedicated it to Count 
Mansfeld. 3 As this circumstance, and also the Preface, shows, 
he took the matter very seriously, and was entirely persuaded 
that it was a visible " sign from heaven." Yet it is perfectly 
plain, even from his own pamphlet, that the occurrence was 
quite simple and natural. 

Florentina of Upper-Weimar had been confided in early 
childhood to the convent of Neu-Helfta, at Eisleben, to bo 
educated ; later, after the regulation " year of probation," she 
took the vows, probably without any real vocation. Having 
become acquainted with some of the writings of the Reformers, 
she entered into correspondence with Luther, and, one happy 
day in February, 1524, thanks to " visible, Divine assistance," 
escaped from her fellow-nuns who, so she alleged, had treated 
her cruelly because, as she very naively remarks, 4 ; the person 
who should have locked me in left the cells open." She betook 
herself to Luther at Wittenberg. Luther adds nothing to the 
bare facts ; he has no wish to deceive the reader by false state 
ments. Yet, speaking of the incident, he says in the Introduction : 
" God s Word and Work must be acknowledged with fear, nor 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 48, p. 139 f. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 107 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 144, at the 
commencement of the work " Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen 

3 Ibid., 15, p. 86 seq. = 29, p. 103 ff. : " Eyn Geschicht wie Got eyner 
Erbarn Kloster Jungfrawe ausgelft en hat." 

4 Ibid., p. 93 = 112. 


. . . may His signs and wonders be cast to the winds." Godless 
people despised God s works and said : This the devil must have 
done. They did not " perceive God s action, or recognise the work 
of His Hands. So is it ever with God s miracles." Just as the 
Pharisees disregarded Christ s driving out of devils and raising 
of the dead, and only admitted those things to be miracles which 
they chose to regard as such, so it is still to-day. Hence no heed 
would be paid to this work of God by which Florentina " had been 
so miraculously rescued from the jaws of the devil." If noisy 
spirits, or Papists with their holy water, performed something 
extraordinary, then, of course, that was a real miracle. He 
proceeds : " But we who, by God s Grace, have come to the 
knowledge of the Evangel and the truth, are not at liberty to 
allow such signs, w r hich take place for the corroboration of the 
Evangel, to pass unnoticed. What matters it that those who 
neither know, nor desire to know, the Evangel do not recognise it 
as a sign, or even take it for the devil s work ? " l 

The use of an argument so puerile, and Luther s confident 
assumption of an extraordinary interference of Divine Omni 
potence suspending the laws of nature (which is what a miracle 
amounts to), all this could only arouse painful surprise in the 
minds of those of his readers who were faithful to the Church. 
Luther was here the victim of a mystical delusion only to be 
accounted for by his dominant idea of his relation to God and 
the Church. 

When, in the same work, he goes on to tell his readers that : 
" God has certainly wrought many similar signs during the last 
three years, which shall be described in due season " ; or that 
he merely recounted Florentina s escape to Count Mansfeld as 
" a special warning from God " against the nunneries, which 
" God had made manifest in their own country," we see still 
more plainly the extent and depth of his pseudo-mystical views 
concerning the miracles wrought on behalf of his Evangel. 

Concerning his own ability to work miracles, he is reticent 
and cautious. It is true that, to those who are ready to 
believe in him, he confidently promises God s wonderful 
intervention should the need arise ; the miraculous power, 
so far as it concerns himself, he represents, however, as 
bound by a wise economy, and, also, by his own desire of 
working merely through the Word. 

It should be noted of the statements to be quoted that 
they betray no trace of having been made in a jesting or 
rhetorical mood, but are, on the contrary, in the nature of 
theological arguments. 

In 1537, he declared : "I have frequently said that I never 
desired God to grant me the grace of working miracles, but 

1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 87 = 104. 


rejoice that it is given to me to hold fast to the Word of God and 
to work with it; otherwise they would soon be saying: The 
devil works through him. " For, as the Jews behaved towards 
Christ, " so also do our adversaries, the Papists, behave towards 
us. Whatever we do is wrong in their eyes ; they are annoyed 
at us and scandalised and say : The devil made this people. 
But they shall have no sign from us." All that Christ said to the 
Jews was : " Destroy this temple," that is, Me and My teaching ; 
I shall nevertheless rise again. " What else can we reply to our 
foes, the Papists ? . . . Destroy the temple if you will, it shall 
nevertheless be raised up again in order that the Gospel may 
remain in the Christian Church." 1 The great miracle required 
of Christ was merely deferred, He performed it by His actual 
resurrection from the dead. What sign such as this was it in 
Luther s power to promise ? 

Luther is even anxious not to have any signs. " I have 
besought the contrary of God," i.e. that there should be no 
revelations or signs, so he writes in 1534, in the enlarged Com 
mentary on Isaias, " in order that I may not be lifted up, or 
drawn away from the spoken Word, by the deceit of Satan." 2 
" Now that the Gospel has been spread abroad and proclaimed 
to the whole world it is not necessary to work wonders as in the 
time of the Apostles. But should necessity arise and the Gospel 
be threatened and suffer violence, we should then have to set 
about it and work signs rather than leave the Gospel to be 
abused and oppressed. But I hope it will not be necessary, and 
that things will not come to such a pass as to compel me to 
speak with new tongues, for this is not really necessary." Here 
he is thinking of believers generally, though at the close he 
refers more particularly to himself. Speaking of all, he continues 
prudently : " Let no one take it upon himself to work wonders 
without urgent necessity." " For the disciples did not perform 
them on every occasion, but only in order to bear witness to the 
Word and to confirm it by miraculous signs." 3 

That he believed the power to work miracles might be ob 
tained of God may be inferred from many of his declarations 
against the fanatics, where he challenges them to prove them 
selves the messengers of God by signs and wonders ; for whoso 
ever is desirous of teaching something new or uncommon, he had 
said, must be " called by God and able to confirm his calling by 
real miracles," otherwise let him pack up and go his way. 4 But 
his own doctrines were an entirely new thing in the Church, and, 
in spite of every subterfuge, when thus inviting others to perform 
miracles, he cannot always have been unmindful of the fact. 
Hence it has been said that he claimed a certain latent ability to 
work miracles. It should, however, be noted that he always 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 46, p. 205 ff. 

2 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 25, p. 120. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 3, p. 145 f. ; Erl. ed., 12 2 , p. 201, in the 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 20, p. 724. See above, p. 153. 



insists here that his teaching, unlike that of the fanatics and 
other sects, Catholics included, was not new, but was the original 
teaching of Christ, and that therefore it stood in no need of 

Still, his confident tone brings him within measurable distance 
of volunteering to work miracles in support of his cause. " Al 
though I have wrought no such sign such as perhaps we might 
w T ork, should necessity arise," etc. 1 These words are quite in 
keeping with the above : " We should have to set about it," 

It is strange how Luther repeatedly falls back on Melanchthon s 
recovery at Weimar in 1540. This eventually followed a visit of 
Luther to his friend, to encourage and pray for the sick man, 
whose health had completely broken down under the influence 
of melancholy. 2 It is possible Luther saw in this a miraculous 
answer to his prayer ; owing to the manner in which he re 
counted the incident it became a tradition, that the power of 
his prayer was stronger than the toils of death. Walch, in his 
Life of Luther, wrote, that people had then seen "how much 
Luther s prayer was capable of." 3 

The same scholar adds, as another " remarkable example," 
that that godly and upright man, Frederick Myconius, the first 
evangelical Superintendent at Gotha, had assured him before 
his death, that only thanks to Luther s prayers had he been able 
to drag on his existence, notwithstanding his consumption, for 
six years, though in a state of "great weakness." 4 In cheering 
up Myconius, and promising him his prayers, Luther had said : 
As to your recovery, " I demand it, I will it, and my will be 
done. Amen." 5 "In the same way," Walch tells us, "he also 
prayed for his wife Catharine when she was very ill ; he was 
likewise reported to have said on one occasion : I rescued our 
Philip, my Katey and Mr. Myconius from death by my prayers. " 6 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 12 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 288. " Von 
beider Gestallt des Sacramentes," 1522. 

2 See vol. iv., xxi. 2, towards the end. 

3 " Ausfiihrliche Nachricht von M. Luthero," in his edition of 
Luther, 24, p. 357. * Ibid., p. 359 f. 

5 To Myconius, January 9, 1541, " Briefe," 5, p. 327. 

6 P. 361, where he quotes Mathesius s Sermons on Luther, 13, 
p. 148 (Nuremberg edition, 1566, p. 157). Cp. " Brief wechsel," 13, p. 11, 
and what Weller says (vol. vi., xxxviii. 2) of the two dead people raised to 
life by Luther. In the German "Table-Talk" ("Werke," Erl. ed., 59, p. 3) 
Luther says of prayer : "The prayer of the Church performs great 
miracles. In our own time it has restored three dead men to life ; first 
me, for often I was sick unto death, then my housekeeper Katey, who 
was also sick unto death, finally Philip Melanchthon, who, anno 1540, 
lay sick unto death at Weimar. Though Liberatio a morbis et corporations 
periculis is not the best of miracles, yet it must not be allowed to pass 
unheeded propter infirmitatem in fide. To me it is a much greater miracle 
that God Almighty should every day bestow the grace of baptism, give 
Himself in the Sacrament of the altar and absolve et liberal a peccato, 
a morte et damnations ceterna. These are great miracles." Cp. Forste- 
mann s notes, " Tischreden," 2, p. 230. 


How does the case stand as regards the gift of prophecy, 
seeing that Luther apparently claims to have repeatedly 
made use of higher prophetic powers ? 

On more than one occasion Luther declares that what he pre 
dicted usually came to pass, even adding, "This is no joke." In 
the same way he often says quite seriously, that he would refrain 
from predicting this or that misfortune lest his words should be 
fulfilled. We see an instance of this sort in his circular-letter 
addressed, in February, 1539, to the preachers on the anticipated 
religious war. 1 

" I am a prophet of evil and do not willingly prophesy anything, 
for it generally comes to pass." This he says in conversation when 
speaking of the wickedness of Duke George of Saxony. 2 In the 
Preface to John Sutel s work on " The Gospel of the Destruction 
of Jerusalem," Luther says, in 1539, speaking of the disasters 
which were about to befall Germany : " I do not like prophesying 
and have no intention of doing so, for what I prophesy, more 
particularly the evil, is as a rule fulfilled, even beyond my expecta 
tions, so that, like St. Micheas, I often wish I were a liar and false 
prophet ; for since it is the Word of God that I speak it must 
needs come to pass." 3 In his Church-postils he commences a 
gloomy prophecy on the impending fate of Germany with the 
words : " From the bottom of my heart I am loath to prophesy, 
for I have frequently experienced that what I predict comes 
only too true," the circumstances, however, compelled him, etc. 4 

No wonder then that his enthusiastic disciples had many 
instances to relate of his " prophecies." 

A casual reference of Luther s to a seditious rising to be 
expected among the German nobility, is labelled in the MS. copy 
of Lauterbach s " Tagebuch," " Luther s Prophecy concerning 
the rising of the German nobles." 5 Bucer in his Eulogies on 
Luther in the old Strasburg Agenda, after mentioning his great 
gifts, says : " Add also the gift of prophecy, for every tiling 
happens just as he foretold it." This we read in a Leipzig publica 
tion, 6 in which, as an echo of the Reformation Festivities of 1717, 
a Lutheran, referring to the General Superintendent of Altenburg, 
Eckhard, protests, " that Luther both claimed and really pos 
sessed the gift of prophecy." Mathesius, in his 15th Sermon on 
Luther, speaks enthusiastically of the latter s prophecy against 
those of the new faith who were sapping the foundations of the 

1 " Briefe," od. De Wette, 5, p. 169. 

2 " Colloq.," ed. Biiidseil, 1, p. 324, andt fru/., quotation from Reben- 
stock s Latin Colloquies. Seidemami in Lautorbach s " Tagebuch " 
also quotes Khummer s MS., p. 397. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 362. 

4 Ibid., 14 2 , p. 399. 

5 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 199 : " Vaticinium Lutheri de 
seditione nobilium in Germanici." 

6 " Unschuldige Nachrichten," 1718, p. 316, with quotation from 
"Church Agenda, p. 52." 


Wittenberg teaching : "In our own day Dr. Martin s prayers and 
prophecies against the troublesome and unruly spirits have, alas, 
grown very powerful . . . they were to perish miserably, a 
prophecy which I heard from his own lips : Mathesius, you 
will see what wanton attacks will be made upon this Church and 
University of Wittenberg, and how the people will turn heretics 
and come to a frightful end. " l 

Even J. G. Walch, 2 in 1753, at least in the Contents and Indices 
to his edition of Luther s Works, quotes as " Luther s Prophecies 
on the destruction of Germany," the passage from the German 
" Table-Talk " 3 which foretells God s judgments on Germany where 
His Evangel was everywhere despised. Yet this " prophecy " 
is nothing more than a natural inference from the confusion which 
Luther saw was the result of his work. In the same Indices, 
under the name " Luther," 4 we again find given as a " prophecy " 
this prediction concerning Germany, under the various forms in 
which Luther repeated it. Lastly, under the heading " Prophecy," 
further reference is made to his predictions on the future lament 
able fate of his own Evangel ; on the distressing revival by his 
preachers of the doctrine of good works which he had overthrown ; 
on the apostasy of the most eminent Doctors of the Church ; on 
the abuse of his books by friends of the Evangel ; on the Saxon 
nobles after the death of Frederick the Elector, 5 and, finally, on 
the fate of Wittenberg. 6 In all this there is, however, nothing 
which might not have been confidently predicted from the 
existing state of affairs. Walch prefaces his summary with the 
words : " For Luther s teaching is verily that faith and doctrine 
proclaimed by the prophets from the beginning of the world," 
just as Luther himself had once said in a sermon, that his doctrine 
had " been proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets five 
thousand years before," but had been " cast aside." 7 

We can understand his followers, in their enthusiasm, crediting 
him with a true gift of prophecy, but it is somewhat difficult to 
believe that he himself shared their conviction. Although the 

1 Mathesius, " Historien," p. 217. 2 Walch, 23, p. 1132. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 186. 4 Walch, 23, p. 688 f. 

5 Ibid., 14, p. 1360 : " Vaticinium mense Augusto, a. 1532." 
Cp. " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 391 f. 

6 Ibid., 7, p. 1353 ; Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 23, in the sermon of 1531 on 
the destruction of Jerusalem, in Walch s edition under the heading : 
" Luther s Prophecy concerning Germany," " Luther s Prophecy on 
Wittenberg and its magistrates." 

7 Ibid., 12, p. 1865, Sermon on the Gospel for the 8th Sunday 
after Trinity, Luke xix. 41. In his " Ausfuhrliche Nachricht von M. 
Luthero," Walch, however, expressly admits that Luther " had not the 
gift of predicting " ; if he has been spoken of as a prophet, this 
depended on the sense in which the word was used ; he had rightly 
foreseen much of what would happen to the German Church," etc. 
" Neither did God bestow on him the gift of working miracles," but 
he did not need it, since he preached no new doctrine and what he 
taught he proved sufficiently from Holy Scripture ; indeed, the 
Reformation as a whole was not miraculous, since God had not inter 
vened in it in any extraordinary manner. 


belief of his disciples can be traced as clearly to Luther s own 
assurances, as to the fulfilment of what he predicted, yet it is 
uncertain whether at any time his self-confidence went to this 
length. Whoever is familiar with Luther s mode of speech and 
his habit of talking half in earnest half in jest, will have some 
difficulty in persuading himself that the disciples always distin 
guished the shade of their master s meaning. The disasters 
imminent in Germany, and the religious wars, might quite well 
have been foreseen by Luther from natural signs, and yet this is 
just the prophecy on which most stress is laid. Melanchthon, who 
was more sober in his judgments in this respect, speaks of Luther 
as a prophet merely in the general sense, as for instance when he 
says in his Postils : " Prophets under the New Law are those 
who restore again the ancient doctrine ; such a one was Dr. 
Martin Luther." 1 

" What Luther, the new Elias and Paul, has prophesied cannot 
but come true," writes a preacher in 1562, " and those who 
would doubt this are unbelieving and godless, Papists, Epicureans, 
Sodomites or fanatics. Everything has become so frightful and 
bestial, what with blasphemy, swearing, cursing, unchastity and 
adultery, usury, oppression of the poor and every other vice, that 
one might fancy the last trump was sounding for the Judgment. 
What else do the countless, hitherto unheard-of signs, wonders 
and visions indicate, but that Christ is about to come to judge 
and punish ? " 2 

Luther was most diligent in collecting and making use of 
any prophetical utterances which might go to prove the 
exalted character of his mission. 

The supposed prophecy of Hus, that from his ashes would 
arise a swan whose voice it would be impossible to stifle, he 
coolly applied to himself. 3 He was fond of referring to 
what a Franciscan visionary at Rome had said of the time 
of Leo X. : "A hermit shall arise and lay waste the Papacy." 
Staupitz, he says, had heard this prophecy from the mouths 
of many at the time of his stay in Rome (1510). lie himself 
had not heard it there, but later he, like Staupitz, had come 
to see that he " was the hermit meant, for August inian 
monks are commonly called hermits." 4 

1 " Postnla," pars, hi., Dom. 3, post Adv. " Corp. ref.," 25, p. 916. 

2 " Of the horrible monstrosities and many other similar signs of the 
wrath of Cod at this time, a veracious account by a minister of the 
Holy Evangel," 1562, Janssen-Pastor, " Gesch. des deutschen Volkes," 
6 16 , p. 470. 

3 In addition to the passage quoted, p. 155, n. 1, cp. "Werke," Erl. 
ed., 65, p. 83, at the end of Luther s edition of " Etliclie Briefe Johann 
Hussens," 1537. See also Luther on the swan, xix. 2, and vol. iv., xxvi. 4. 

4 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 438. " Tischreden. Cp. Khummer in 
Lauterbach s "Tischreden," p. 36, n., and Mathesius, " Historien, 3 " 
p. 199. Cp. p. 211 . 


Luther had also learnt that a German Franciscan named 
Hilten, who died at Eisenach about the end of the fifteenth 
century, had predicted much concerning the destruction of 
monasticism, the shattering of Papal authority and the 
end of all things. So highly were Hilten s alleged sayings 
esteemed in Luther s immediate circle that Melanchthon 
placed one of them at the head of the Article (27) " On 
monastic vows," in his theological defence of the Confession 
of Augsburg ; " In 1516 a monk shall come, who will 
exterminate you monks ; . . . him will you riot be able 
to resist." 1 Luther, before this, on October 17, 1529, by 
letter, had urged his friend Frederick Myconius of Gotha to 
let him know everything he could about Hilten, " fully, 
entirely and at length, without forgetting anything " ; " you 
are aware how much depends upon this. ... I am very 
anxious for the information, nay, consumed with longing 
for it." 2 His friend s report, however, did not bring him all 
he wanted. 3 The Franciscan had predicted the fall of Rome 
about 1514, i.e. too early, and the end of the world for 1651, 
i.e. too late. Hence we do not hear of Luther s having brought 
forward the name of this prophet in support of his cause. 
Only on one occasion docs he mention Hilten as amongst 
those, who " were to be consigned to the flames or other 
wise condemned." The fact is that this monk of Eisenach, 
once an esteemed preacher, was never " condemned " or 
even tried by the Church, although Luther in the above 
letter to Myconius says that he " died excommunicate." 
Hilten died in his friary, fortified with the Sacraments, and 
at peace with the Church and his brother monks, after 
beseeching pardon for the scandal he had given them. The 
Franciscans had kept in custody the unfortunate man, who 
had gone off his head under the influence of astrology and 
apocalyptic dreams, in order that his prophecies might not 
do harm in the Church or the Order. He was not, however, 
imprisoned for life, still less was he immured, as some have 
said ; he was simply kept under fatherly control (" paterne 
custoditum "), that those of his brethren who believed in 
him might not take any unfair advantage of the old man. 4 

" Symbolische Biicher," 10 , p. 270 f. 
" Brief wechsel," 7, p. 17 1 

3 Reply of Myconius, December 2, 1529, ibid., p. 194. 

4 Cp. the account of an apostate friar, who had been a comrade of 
Hilten s and who was with him during his last days, in Enders, " Luthers 


In the widely read new edition of the book of Prophecies 
by Johann Lichtenbergcr, astrologer to the Emperor 
Frederick III. (1488), republished by Luther in 1527 with a 
new Preface, the latter s ideas play a certain part. Luther 
did not regard these Prophecies as a " spiritual revelation ; 
they were merely astrological predictions, as he says in t 
Preface, 1 views which might often prove to be questionable 
and faulty ; nevertheless, his " belief " is " that God does 
actually make use of heavenly signs, such as comets, eclipses 
of the sun and the moon, etc., to announce impending mis 
fortune and to warn and affright the ungodly." 5 
do not scorn this Lichtenberger in everything he says, for he 
has come right in some things." 3 Luther is principally 
concerned with the chastisements predicted by Lichten 
berger, but not yet accomplished as the "priestlings 
rejoiced to thinkbut, still to overtake them owing to their 
hostility to the Lutheran teaching. " Because they refuse 
amend their impious life and doctrine, but on the contrary 
persevere in it and grow worse, I also will prophesy that in a 
short time their joy shall be turned to shame, and will ask 
them kindly to remember me then." 4 Later he speaks 
incidentally of Lichtenbergcr as a " fanatic, but still one 
who had foretold many things, for this the devil is well 
able to do." 5 

During his stay at the Wartburg he had occasion to re 
on the ancient prophecy concerning an Emperor Frederick, 
who should redeem the Holy Sepulchre. He was inclined to 
see in this Frederick, his Elector, whose right hand he him 
self was. The difficulty that the Elector was not Emperor 

Briefwechsel," 7, p. 198 ; cp. also the literature quoted by Enders. 
Hilten s prophecy, and likewise that of the Roman Franciscan was 
nevertheless, in 1872, quoted in Luther s favour by C. V. Kanms, 
Professor of Theology at the University of Leipzig in his Gesch cler 
deutschen Reformation," 1, p. 178. He says: " \V hat the .Spirit of 
God in him bore witness to in condemnation of the fallen ? Umrcli oi 
the Middle Ages, was attested by prophetic utterances. 
Luther was at school at Eisenach, a monk named Hilten languished 
in the prison of the Franciscan convent," etc. He appeals to Mathesius, 
"Historien," Predigt, 15, p. 319; V. E. Loscher, " Vol standige 
Reformationsacta," 1, 1720, p. 148, and K. Jiirgens, Luther vor 
seiner Geburt bis zum Ablassstreite," 1, 1846, p. 295. 

1 Preface reprinted in " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 250 ff. Lichten- 
berger s book was re-translated in this edition by Stephen R 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 145. 

3 Preface, p. 253. 4 Ibid., p. 258. 
5 Ibid., 2, p. 641, n. 1, to p. 145. 


did not appear to him insuperable, since at Frankfurt the 
votes of the other electors had been given to Frederick, so 
that he might have been " a real emperor had he so desired." 
Still, he was loath to insist upon such an artifice ; this 
solution of the difficulty might, he says, be termed mere 
child s play. What is much clearer to him is, that the Holy 
Sepulchre of the prophecy is " the Holy Scripture wherein 
the truth of Christ lies buried, after having been put to death 
by the Papists. ... As for the actual tomb in which the 
Lord lay and which is now in the hands of the Saracens, God 
cares no more about it than about the Swiss cows. But no 
one can deny that amongst you, under Duke Frederick, 
Elector of Saxony, the living truth of the Gospel has shone 
forth." 1 

! " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 561 ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 139 f. " Vom 
Missbrauch der Messen." The passage commences : " When a child 

^ frequently heard a prophecy current in the country, viz. that an 
Emperor Frederick would rescue the Holy Sepulchre." This had been 
misunderstood and applied to the tomb at Jerusalem ; but it is " of 
the nature of prophecies to be fulfilled before being understood." The 
passage on Frederick also occurs in the Latin text of this work pub- 

ished previously under the title " De abroganda missa." In " Werke," 
V\ eim. ed., 8, p. 475, we there read : " Videtur mihi ista (prophetia) in hoc 
Fridnco nostro impleta" Luther then proceeds to recount in a pleasant 
vein certain doubtful interpretations. 



1. Luther s Vocation. His Standard of Life 

READING the lives of great men really sent by God who did 
great things for the salvation of souls by their revelations 
and their labours, whether narrated in the Bible or in the 
history of the Christian Church, we find that, without 
exception, their standards were high, that they sought to 
convert those with whom they came in contact primarily by 
their own virtuous example, that their aim was to promote 
the spread of their principles and doctrines by honest, 
truthful and upright means, and that their actions bore the 
stamp, not of violence, but of peaceablcness and charity 
towards all brother Christians. 

Luther s friends have always protested against his being 
compared with the Saints. Be their reason what it may, 
when it is a question of the moral appreciation of the founder 
of a religious movement everyone should be ready to admit, 
that such a founder must not present too great a contrast 
with those great harbingers of the faith in olden days whom 
he himself claims as his ideal, and in whose footsteps he 
pretends to tread. Luther is anxious to see St. Paul once 
more restored to his pinnacle ; his doctrine he would fain 
re-establish. This being so, we may surely draw his atten 
tion to the character of St. Paul as it appears to us in his 
Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul brought 
into this dark world a new light, unknown heretofore, 
which had been revealed to him together with his Divine 
calling. His vocation he fostered by heroic virtues, and by 
a purity of life free from all sensuality or frivolity, preaching 
with ail the attraction conferred by sincerity and honesty 
of purpose, in words and deeds full of fire, indeed, yet at the 
same time breathing the most patient and considerate 



Although we may not exact from Luther all the virtues of 
a St. Paul, yet he cannot complain if his private life and his 
practice and theory of morals be compared with the sublime 
mission to which he laid claim. It is true, that, when con 
fronted with such a critical test, he was accustomed to meet 
it with the assertion that his Evangel was unassailable 
whatever his life might be. This, however, must not deter 
us from applying the test in question, calmly and cautiously, 
with every precaution against infringing the truth of 
history and the claims of a just and unbiassed judgment 
which are his right even at the hands of those whose views 
are not his. 

The following is merely an appreciation of some of the 
sMes of his character, not a general conspectus of his morals. 
Such a conspectus will only become possible at the conclusion 
of our work. This we mention because in what follows we 
shall be considering almost exclusively Luther s less favour 
able traits and ethical principles. It is unavoidable that we 
should consider here in this connection his own testimonies, 
and those of other witnesses, which militate against his 
Divine mission. His better points, both as man and writer, 
will be impartially pointed out elsewhere. 

Luther himself admitted that Christ s words : " By their 
fruits ye shall know them," established a real standard 
for the teachers of the Gospel. He was familiar with the 
words of St. Bonaventure : " The sign of a call to the office 
of preacher is the healing of the hearers from the maladies 
of sin." ] He knew that the preacher s virtue must be im 
parted to others, and that the sublimity and purity of his 
doctrine must be reflected in the amelioration of his 

A mere glance at Wittenberg at the time of the religious 
subversion will suffice to show how little such conditions 
were realised. Valentine Ickelsamer was referring to well- 
known facts when he confronted Luther with the words 
of Christ quoted above. He added : " You boast of holding 
the true doctrine on faith and charity and you shriek 
that men merely condemn the imperfections of your life." 
He is here referring to Luther s evasion. The latter had 
complained that people under-valued him and were scandal- 
1 Bonaventura, " Expos, in cap. ix. Lucte." 


ised at his life and that of his friends. In 1538, for instance 
he was obliged, with the help of Jonas, Cruciger and 
Melanchthon, to dissociate himself from a theologian, Mastc 
George Karg, who had been advocating at Wittenberg 
doctrines which differed from his own ; of him he wrote : 
"He is an inexperienced young man and, possibly, was 
scandalised at us personally in the first instance, and then 
fell away in his doctrine ; for all those who have caused 
dissensions among us have begun by despising us person 
ally." 1 

Amongst the Catholic writers who pointed out to the 
Wittenberg professor that his lack of a Divine call or higher 
mission was proved by the visible absence of any special 
virtue, and by his behaviour as a teacher, we may mention 
the Franciscan Johann Kindling (Apobolymscus). In the 
beginning of 1521 the latter published an " admonition 
addressed to Luther which relies chieily on the reasons 
mentioned above. 2 In this anonymous writing the Fran 
ciscan deals so considerately with the monk, who was already 
then excommunicate, that recent Protestant writers have 
actually contrasted him with the " Popish zealots."^ Luther 
he terms his " beloved," and is unwilling even to describe 
him as a " heretic," 4 following in this the example of many 
other monks who showed the same scruple, probably on 
account of their own former vacillation. Excuses of various 
kinds are not wanting in Findling s letter. 

What is of interest in the present connection is the question 
the author sets before the originator of the schism in the iollow- 
ing challenge : " If you are a prophet or seer sent by God 
point out the truth to men, let us perceive this, that we i nay 
believe in you, approve your action and follow you. If what you 
preach and write is of Divine revelation, then we are ready t 
honour you as a messenger sent from heaven. . . . But it is 
written : Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits il 

1 To the Elector Johann Frederick of Saxony, January 4, 1538, 
Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 195 ; " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 95 
("Briefwechsel," 11, p. 323). 

2 Reprinted in "Briefwechsel Luthers," 3, p 38 *><?.. That the 
author was J. Findling has been proved by N Paulus in his wor 
" Kaspar Schatzgeyer," 1898, p. 137 f. Cp. KathoUk 1900 11., 
p. 90 ff. Enders, " Briefwechsel Luthers," 3, p. 65, n. 1, should 1 
corrected from this. 

3 See Enders, ibid. 4 Ibid., p. 56. 


be of God (1 John iv. 1). ... We are unable to believe in 
you because so much strife, so many intrigues, insults, bitter 
reproaches, vituperation and abuse proceed from you. . . . 
Quarrels, blasphemies and enmities are, as St. Ambrose says, foreign 
to the ministers of God." 1 Your acrimony, your vituperation, 
your calumny and abuse are such that one is forced to ask : 
" Where is your Christian spirit, or your Lutheran spirit, for, 
according to some, Lutheran means the same as Christian ? 
Has not Christ commanded : " Love your enemies, pray for 
those who persecute you ? Certainly if prayer consists in calumny, 
abuse, detraction, reviling and cursing, then you pray excellently 
and effectually enough. Not one of all those I have ever read 
curses and abuses others as you do." 2 

The writer also points out how Luther s followers imitate and 
even outdo him ; they were likewise turning his head by their 
praises ; they sang hymns in his honour, but hymns coming 
from such lips w r ere a poor tribute. Nor was the applause of the 
masses beyond suspicion, for it merely showed that what he 
wrote was to the taste of the multitude ; for instance, when he 
blamed the authorities and cited them before his tribunal. It 
was his rude handling of his ghostly superiors w T hich had brought 
the nobility and the knights to his side. Had he overwhelmed 
them and the laity with such reproaches as he had heaped upon 
the spiritual authorities, then " I know not whether you would 
still be in the land of the living." 3 

Apart from his want of charity and his censoriousness, other 
very un-apostolic qualities of Luther s were his pride and 
arrogance, his utter disdain for obedience, his irascibility, his 
jealousy and his want of seriousness in treating of the most 
important questions that concerned humanity ; the childish, 
nay, womanish, outbursts in which notoriously he was wont to 
indulge could only serve to humble him in his own eyes. 

Luther must have felt keenly the Franciscan s allusions to his 
untruthfulness and evasiveness, more particularly in his conduct 
towards the Pope, whereas Holy Scripture expressly declares 
that " God has no need of a lie " (Job xiii. 7). 

He concludes by saying, that if Luther " is a good and gentle 
disciple of Christ," then he will not disregard this exhortation 
to turn back and recant. 

Thus the Franciscan. It is to be feared, however, that Luther 
never read the letter to its end. As he himself said, he had 
nothing but scorn for anything that Catholic censors might say 
to him. " Attacks from without only serve to render me proud 
and arrogant, and you may see from my books how I despise my 
gainsayers ; I look upon them as simple fools." 4 His state of 
mind even then was such as to make him incapable of calmly 
weighing such reproofs. In the following sentences the Franciscan 
above referred to has aptly described Luther s behaviour : Who- 

1 See Enders, p. 52 f. 

2 Ibid., p. 60. 3 Ibid., p. 49. 

4 Cp. Dollinger, " Luther, eine Skizze," p. 53 (" KL.," 8 2 , col. 340). 


ever allows himself to be overtaken by hatred and carried away 
bv fury " blots out the light of reason within himself and darkens 
his comprehension, so that he is no longer able to understand or 
iudge aright. He rushes blindly through the surrounding fog 
and darkness, and knows not whither his steps will carry him. 
Many people, dearest Martin, believe you to be in this state. 
" In this condition of mental confusion you cannot fail to go 
astray ; you will credit yourself with what is far beyond you and 
quite outside your power." 2 In such a man eloquence was like 
a sword in the hand of a madman, as was sufficiently apparent in 
the case of Luther s followers who attempted to emulate his zeal 
with the pen. 3 

Erasmus was another moderate critic. In the matter of 
Luther s life, as was to be expected from one who had once 
praised him in this particular, as a rule he is inclined to be 
cautious, however unable to refrain from severely censuring 
his unevangelical manner of proceeding. The absence of 
the requisite standard of life seemed to Erasmus sufficient 
to disprove Luther s claim to the possession of the Spirit of 
God and a higher mission. "You descend to calumny, 
abuse and threats and yet you wish to be esteemed free 
from guile, pure, and led by the Spirit of God, not by human 
passion." 4 " Can the Evangel then be preached in so un 
evangelical a manner ? " " Have all the laws of propriety 
been abrogated by the new-born Evangel, so that each one 
is at liberty to make use of any method of attack either in 
word or writing ? Is this the liberty which you restore to 
us ? " 5 He points more particularly to Luther s demagogism 
as alien to the Christian spirit : " Your object is to raise 
revolt, and you are perfectly aware that this has often been 
the result of your writings. Not thus did the Apostles act. 
You drag our controversial questions before the tribunal of 
the unlearned/ 6 " God Almighty ! What a contrast to the 
spirit of the Gospel ! " exclaims Erasmus, referring to some 
of Luther s abuse. " A hundred books written against him 
would not have alienated me from him so much as these 
insults." 7 

Amongst the admonitions addressed to Luther at an 
early date by men of weight, that of Zaccaria Ferreri, the 

1 " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 57. 

2 Ibid., p. 55. 3 Ibid., p. 48. 

4 " Hyperaspistes," 1, " Opp.," ed. Ludg., 10, col. 1327. 

5 Ibid,, col. 1335. 6 Cp. col. 1334. 

7 To Duke George of Saxony, June 30, 1530, " Opp., col. 1293. 


Papal Legate in Poland, written in 1520 and published in 
1894, is particularly noteworthy. From the self-love and 
arrogance which he found displayed in Luther s character 
he proves to him that his could not be the work of God : 
" Do open your eyes and see into what an abyss of delusion 
you are falling. You seem to fancy that you alone are in 
the sunlight and that all the rest of the world is seated in the 
darkness of night. . . . You reproach Christianity with 
groping about in error for more than a thousand years ; 
in your madness you wish to appear wiser and better than 
all other mortals put together, to all of whom you send 
forth your challenge. Rest assured your opponents are not 
so dull-witted as not to see through your artfulness and to 
perceive the inconsistency and frivolity of your doctrines." 
Ferreri also addressed the following appeal to Luther : 
" If you are determined to cast yourself into the abyss of 
death, at least take pity on the unfortunate people whom 
you are daily infecting with your poison, whose souls you are 
destroying and dragging along with you to perdition. The 
Almighty will one day require of you their blood which you 
have drunk, and their happiness which you have destroyed." 1 

Such voices from the past help to make us alive to the 
importance of the question which forms the subject of the 
present section. Luther s own ethical practice when defend 
ing the divinity of his mission, more particularly his doctrine 
of the forgiveness of sins, against all doubts and " tempta 
tions " which occurred to him, affords us, however, the best 
and clearest insight into his moral standards. Here his 
moral attitude appears in a most singular light. 

We may preface what follows with some words of the 
Protestant historian Gottlieb Jacob Planck (flSSS) : 
" When it is necessary to lay bare Luther s failings, an 
historian should blush to fancy that any excuse is required 
for so doing." 2 

Temptations " to doubt were not uncommon in Luther s 
case and in that of his friends. He accordingly instructs his 
disciples to combat them and to regain their lost equanimity 
by the same method which he himself was in the habit of 

1 "Hist. Jahrb.," 15, 1894, p. 374 ff., communicated by Job. 

2 " Gesch. des protestant. Lehrbegriffs," 2, p. 135. 


employing. Foremost amongst these instructions is one 
addressed to his pupil Hieronymus Weller of Molsdorf, a 
native of Freiberg, who, whilst at Wittenberg, hr.d, under 
Luther s influence, relinquished the study of the law for 
that of theology. He was received into Luther s household 
as a boarder in 1527, and in 1535, after having secured his 
Doctorate of Theology, he was still resident there. He was 
one of the table-companions who took notes of Luther s 
"Table-Talk." This young man was long and grievously 
tormented with anxiety of mind and was unable to quiet, by 
means of the new Evangel, the scruples of conscience which 
were driving him to despair. 

In 1530, Luther, writing from the Castle of Coburg, gave 
him the following counsel ; we must bear in mind that it 
comes from one who was himself then struggling with the 
most acute mental anxiety. 1 " Sometimes it is necessary to 
drink more freely, to play and to jest and even to commit 
some sin ( peccatum aliquod faciendum ) out of hatred 
and contempt for the devil, so that he may get no chance of 
making a matter of conscience out of mere trifles ; other 
wise we shall be vanquished if we are too anxious about not 
committing sin. ... Oh that I could paint sin in a fair 
light, 2 so as to mock at the devil and make him see that I 
acknowledge no sin and am not conscious of having com 
mitted any ! I tell you, we must put all the Ten Command 
ments, with which the devil tempts and plagues us so 
greatly, out of sight and out of mind. If the devil up 
braids us with our sins and declares us to be deserving of 
death and hell, then we must say : I confess that I have 
merited death and hell, but what then ? Are you for that 
reason to be damned eternally ? By no means. I know 
One Who suffered and made satisfaction for me, viz. Jesus 
Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I also shall be. 

Fell counsels such as these, to despise sin and to meet the 
temptation by sinning, Luther had certainly not learnt from 
the spiritual writers of the past. Such writers, more par- 

1 In July (?), 1530 " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 159-1G1. In the older 
reprints the letter was erroneously put at a later date. 

2 " Utinam possem aliquid insigne peccati designare modo ad eluden- 
dum diabolum ! " " Designare " may mean " to paint." According to 
Forcelli it also sometimes means " to perform," k to do." Cp. Horace, 
" Ep.," 1, 5, 16 : " Quid non ebrietas designat," and Terence Ad. } 
1, 2, 7 : " Quid designavit ? Fores effregit" 


ticularly those whom he professed to have read at his 
monastery, viz. Bernard, Bonaventurc and Gerson, teach 
that sin must first be resisted, after which we may then seek 
prayerfully for the cause of the trouble ; for this is not 
always due to the temptations of the devil, as Luther 
unquestioningly assumed in his own case and, consequently, 
also in that of Weller. If conscience was oppressed by 
sin, then, according to these spiritual writers, a remedy 
different from that suited to doubts against the faith must 
be applied, namely, penance, to be followed by acts of hope. 
If the trouble in Weller s case was one of doubts concerning 
faith, anyone but Luther would have been careful to ascertain 
first of all whether these doubts referred to the specifically 
Lutheran doctrine or to the other truths of the Christian 
revelation. Luther, however, at the commencement of the 
letter, simply declares : " You must rest assured that this 
temptation comes from the devil, and that you are thus 
tortured because you believe in Christ " i.e. in the 
Lutheran doctrine and in the Christ preached by that sect, 
as is clear from the reference immediately following to the 
" foes of the Evangel," who live in security and good cheer. 

The whole letter, though addressed to one standing on the 
brink of despair, contains not a single word about prayer 
for God s help, about humbling oneself or striving after a 
change of heart. Beyond the above-mentioned reference 
to Christ, Who covers over all our sins, and to the 
need of contemning sin, we find merely the following natural, 
indeed, of the earth earthly, remedies recommended, 
viz. : To seek company, to indulge in jest and play, for 
instance, with Luther s wife, ever to keep a good temper and, 
finally, " to drink more deeply." " If the devil says, Don t 
drink, answer him at once : Just because you don t wish 
it, I shall drink, and deeply too. We must always do the 
opposite of what the devil bids. Why, think you, do I drink 
so much, converse so freely and give myself up so frequently 
to the pleasures of the table, if it be not in order to mock 
at the devil, and to plague him when he tries to torment and 
mock at me ? " 

Finally he encourages the sorely tried man by telling him 
how Staupitz had foretold that the temptations which he, 
Luther, endured in the monastery would help to make a 
great man of him, and that he had now, as a matter of fact, 


become a " great doctor." " You, too," he continues, " will 
become a great man, and rest assured that such [prophetic] 
words, particularly those that fall from the lips of great and 
learned men, are not without their value as oracles and pre 

It is not surprising that such counsels and the consolation 
of possible future greatness did not improve the pitiable 
condition of the unfortunate man, but that he long con 
tinued to suffer. 

Of a like nature is the advice which Luther in the following 
year gave another of his boarders and companions, Johann 
Schlaginhaufen, as a remedy for the same malady, which indeed 
seems to have been endemic in his immediate circle. The passages 
in question, from Schlaginhaufen s own notes, may be useful in 
further elucidating Luther s instructions to Weller. 

According to what we are told Luther spoke as follows to 
Schlaginhaufen on December 14, 1531, at a time when the latter 
had been reduced to despair owing to his sins and to his lack of 
the fiducial faith required by the new Evangel. " It is false that 
God hates sinners ; if the devil reminds us of the chastisement 
of Sodom and other instances of God s wrath, then let us confront 
him with Christ, Who became man for us. Had God hated 
sinners He would not. have sent His own Son for us [here again 
not the slightest allusion to any effort after an inward change of 
heart, but merely what follows] : Those only does God hate who 
will not be justified, i.e. those who will not be sinners ( qui non 
volunt esse peccatores )." 1 

In these admonitions to Schlaginhaufen the consolatory 
thought of the merits of Christ, which alone can save us, occurs 
more frequently, though in a very Lutheran guise : " Why 
torment yourself so much about sin ? Even had you as many 
sins on your conscience as Zwirigli, Caiistadt, Miinzer and all the 
ungodly, faith in Christ would overcome them all. Alas, faith is 
all that lacks us ! " If the devil could reproach you with unbelief 
and such-like faults, says Luther, then it would be a different 
matter ; but he does not worry us about the great sins of the first 
table, but about other sins ; "he annoys us with mere trifles ; if 
we would consent to worship the Pope, then we should be his 
dear children." 2 "We must cling to the Man Who is called 
Christ, He will soon put right whatever we may have done 
amiss." 3 

"So that at last I said," Schlaginhaufen continues, "Then, 
Doctor, it would be better that I should remain a rogue and a 
sinner. And the Doctor replied : That Thou, O Lord, mayst be 

1 Those, i.e., who are unwilling to feel that they are sinners. Schla 
ginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 9. 

2 Ibid., p. 20. 

3 Ibid., p. 88. In May, 1532. Cp. "Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 308. 



justified in Thy words, and mayst overcome when Thou art 
judged " (Ps. 1. 6). 1 

With this pupil, as with Weller, Luther enters into an account 
of his own temptations and the means he employed for ridding 
himself of them. 

He himself, he says, in December, 1531, had of ten been made a 
target for the shafts of Satan. "About ten years ago I first 
experienced this despair and these temptations concerning the 
wrath of God. Afterwards I had some peace so that I enjoyed 
good days and even took a wife, but then the temptations re 
turned again." 2 

" I never had any temptation greater or more burdensome 
than that which assailed me on account of my preaching, when I 
thought : It is you alone who are bringing all this business about ; 
if it is wrong, then you alone are accountable for so many souls 
which go down to hell. During such temptations I often went 
right down to hell, only that God called me back and strengthened 
me, because it was His Word and true doctrine. But it costs 
much before one can arrive at such comfort." 3 

Here also he speaks of his remedy of a free indulgence in food 
and drink : " Were I to give in to my want of appetite, then I 
should [in this frame of mind] for three days eat not a scrap ; it 
is a double fast to me to eat and drink without the least inclina 
tion. When the world sees this it looks upon it as drunkenness, 
but God shall judge whether it is drunkenness or fasting . . . 
therefore keep stomach and head alike filled." 4 

According to another communication of Luther s to this pupil, 
he was in the habit of repelling the devil, when he troubled him 
too much about his sins, by cynical speeches on the subject of the 
evacuations. After one such statement the parish priest of 
Wittenberg, the apostate Bugenhagen, interrupted him, and, 
in perfect agreement with Luther, said, " I too would say to the 
devil : My good devil, I have committed a great sin, for Pope 
and bishop anointed my hands and I have defiled them ; that is 
also a great sin. " 5 From such coarse speeches Schlaginhaufen 
passes on to relate other things which the veracious historian is 
not at liberty to suppress. The anxious pupil who was seeking 
consolation continues : " The Doctor [Luther] said : Never 
theless, the devil was unable to get over my arguments. Often 
have I called my wife, et cetera, in order to allay the temptation 
and to free myself from such idle thoughts. " 6 

What Luther, or rather Schlaginhaufen, merely hints at, 
we find explained in greater detail in the diary of Luther s pupil 
Conrad Cordatus : " Thoughts of terror and sadness have 

1 Schlaginhaufen, p. 88. 

2 Ibid., p. 9. Here and in what follows, according to Preger, the MS. 
notes of Veit Dietrich agree with Schlaginhaufen s account 

3 Ibid., p. 11. * ibid. 

5 Ibid., p. 88 f. " Papst und Bischof haben mir die Hande gesalbt, 
und ich habe sie beschissen im Dreck, do ich den Ars wuschet " 

6 Ibid., p. 89 


worried me more than enemies and labours. In my attempts 
to drive them away I met with little success. I also tried 
caressing my wife in order that this distraction might free me 
from the suggestions of Satan ; but in temptations such as these 
we can find no comfort, so greatly is our nature depraved. It is 
necessary, however, to make every kind of effort to banish these 
thoughts by some stronger emotion." 1 One of the chief Latin 
versions of Luther s Colloquies gives this passage in his "Table- 
Talk " as follows : " How often have I taken with my wife those 
liberties which nature permits merely in order to get rid of 
Satan s temptations. Yet all to no purpose, for he refused to 
depart ; for Satan, as the author of death, has depraved our 
nature to such an extent that we will not admit any consolation. 
Hence I advise everyone who is able to drive away these Satanic 
thoughts by diverting his mind, to do so, for instance, by thinking 
of a pretty girl, of money-making, or of drink, or, in fine, by 
means of some other vivid emotion. The chief means, however, 
is to think of Jesus Christ, for He comes to console and to make 
alive." 2 The latter passage is to be found, with unimportant 
alterations, in Rebenstock s edition of the Colloquies, though, 
perhaps out of consideration for Luther, it there commences 
with the words : " For Satan " ; 3 in the German "Table-Talk" 
it is not found at all. 4 

" Let us fix our mind on other thoughts," Luther had also said 
to Schlaginhaufen, " on thoughts of dancing, or of a pretty girl, 
that also is good. Gerson too wrote of this." 5 As a matter of fact, 
Gerson certainly wrote nothing about getting rid of temptations 
by means of sensual images. On the contrary, in the passages 
in question of his spiritual writings, he teaches something quite 

1 " Tagebuch iiber M. Luther," by C. Cordatus, ed. by H. Wrampel- 
meyer, 1883, p. 450 : " Etiam in complexus veni coniugis, lit saltern ille. 
pruritus auferret illas cogitationes satance. . . . Laborandum est omnibus 
modis, ut vehementiore aliquo affectu pellantur." 

2 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 299. The Halle MS. on which 
Bindseil bases his work really depends on the statements of Luther s 
pupil Lauterbach. Here Luther s words run : " Quoties meam uxorem 
complexus sum, nudam contrectavi, ut tantum sathance cogitation eft illo 
pruritu pellerem. But all to no purpose, nolebat cedere," etc. 

3 " Colloquia, meditationes, consolationes, etc. M. Lutheri," 
Francof., 1571, 2, p. 225 ( = 125 ). 

4 As to this, Wrampelmeyer, a Protestant, remarks (p. 451) in his 
edition of Cordatus s Diary, mentioned above : " The German Table- 
Talk, which agrees almost entirely with the Latin version, does not, in 
Erl. ed., 60, p. 110, and Forstemann, 3, p. 122, contain these words, but 
replaces them by the following : I have frequently made use of 
various means in order to drive away Satan, but it was of no use. 
It is clear that words so compromising gave offence and that others were 
substituted instead of those given iri the Latin text, which formed 
the basis of the German Table-Talk. According to the Notes of Corda 
tus, however, Luther s words appear in quite a different light." " The 
words of the Latin Table-Talk : ut de puella pulchra, avaritia, ebrie- 
tate, have also been replaced in the German version by more harmless 

5 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 11. 


different and insists, first and foremost, on the avoidance of sin. He 
proposes our doing the exact opposite of the wicked or unworthy 
acts suggested by the evil spirit. He, like all Catholic masters 
of the spiritual life, indeed instructs those tempted to distract 
their minds, but by pious, or at least, indifferent and harm 
less means. 1 

2. Some of Luther s Practical Principles of Life 
We find in Luther no dearth of strong expressions which, 
like his advice to Wcllcr and Schlaginhaufen, seem to 
discountenance fear of sin, penance and any striving after 
virtue. It remains to determine from their context the 
precise meaning which he attached to them. 

Luther on Sin 

As early as 1518 Luther, in a sermon at Erfurt, had given 
vent to the words already quoted : " What does it matter 
whether we commit a fresh sin so long as we do not despair 
but repeat : Thou, my God, still livest, Christ, my Lord, 
has destroyed sin ; then at once the sin is gone. . . . The 
reason why the world is so out of joint and lies in such error 
is that there has been no real preacher for so long." 2 

" Hence we say," so later on we read in his exposition of 
John xvii., " that those who are true Saints of Christ must 
be great sinners and yet remain Saints. ... Of themselves, 
and for all their works, they are nothing but sinners and 
under condemnation, but by the holiness of another, viz. 
of the Lord Christ, bestowed on them by faith, they are 
made holy." 3 

And further : " The Christian faith differs greatly from 

1 " Opp.," Antwerpise, 1706, 3, p. 242 seq. ; p. 589 seq. Aug. Hardeland 
(" Gesch. der speziellen Seelsorge in der vorreformatorischen Kirche 
und der Kirche der Reformation," Berlin, 1898, p. 261) remarks : 
" The idea that we must always do the exact opposite of what the 
devil suggests, is the leading one in Gerson s Tractate De remediis 
contra pusillanimitatem. " He is of opinion that, in advising Weller to 
sin, Luther was " using this maxim of Gerson s, and probably only 
meant : Do not be afraid to do what, from the standpoint of your 
scrupulosity, appears to be sinful. " Luther s advice, however, was not 
intended for a scrupulous person predisposed to exaggeration or to 
narrowness of heart, but for all those who despaired of their salvation and 
were unable to believe in Luther s doctrine of the forgiveness of sins 
and in his assurance of salvation. " Cogitationes immanissimce," 
Luther calls Weller s ideas, " quando diabolus reos (nos) egerit mortis et 
in/erni. . . . In ceternum condemnaberis ? " Weller, the disciple, has 
first to learn : " novi quendam, qui passus est pro me ac satisfecit," etc. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 254. 3 Ibid,, 50, p. 248. 


the faith and religion of the Pope and the Turks, etc., for, 
by it, in spite of his consciousness of sin, a man, amidst 
afflictions and the fear of death, continues to hope that God 
for Christ s sake will not impute to him his sin. . . . But so 
great is this grace that a man is startled at it and finds it 
hard to believe." 1 He himself and many others often found 
it difficult, indeed terribly difficult, to believe. They were 
obliged to "reassure themselves" by the Word of God. 
A few more quotations may here be added. 

" To be clean of heart not only means not to harbour any 
impure thoughts, but that the conscience has been enlight 
ened and assured by the Word of God that the law does 
not defile ; hence the Christian must understand 
that it does not harm him whether he keeps it [the 
law] or not ; nay, he may even do what is otherwise for 
bidden, or leave undone what is usually commanded ; it is 
no sin in him, for he is incapable of sinning because his heart 
is clean. On the other hand, an impure heart defiles itself 
and sins in everything because it is choked with law." 2 

" God says in the law : Do this, leave that undone, this 
do I require of thec. But the Evangel does not preach what 
we arc to do or to leave undone, it requires nothing of us. 
On the contrary. It does not say : Do this or that, 
but only tells us to hold out our hands and take : Behold, O 
man, what God has done for thec ; He has caused His 
own Son to take flesh for thec, has allowed Him to be done 
to death for thy sake, and to save thee from sin, death and 
the devil ; believe this and accept it and thou shalt be 
saved." 3 

Such statements, which must not be regarded as spoken 
merely on the spur of the moment, rest on the idea that sin 
only troubles the man who looks to the law ; let us look 
rather to the Gospel, which is nothing but grace, and simply 
cover over our sin by a firm faith in Christ, then it will not 
harm us in any way. Yet it would be quite a mistake to 
infer from this that Luther always regarded sin with in 
difference, or that he even recommended it on principle ; 
as a rule he did not go so far as we just saw him do (p. 175 ff .) 
in his exhortations to persons tempted ; there, moreover, his 
invitation to commit sin, and his other misplaced instructions, 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 360. z Ibid., 51, p. 284. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 16, p. 367 ; Erl. ed., 33, p. 5. 


may possibly be explained by the excitement of the hand-to- 
hand struggle with the devil, in which he fancied himself 
to be engaged whenever he had to do with doubts concern 
ing his doctrines, or with souls showing signs of halting or 
of despair. On the contrary, he teaches, as a rule, that sin 
is reprehensible; he also instructs man to fight against 
concupiscence which leads up to it. (Vol. i., p 114 f.) 
He is fond of exhorting to amendment of life and to avoid 
any scandal. Still, the barriers admitted by his doctrine of 
Justification against this indifference with regard to sin 
were not strong enough. 1 

As to Luther s teaching on the manner in which sin was 
forgiven, we shall merely state his ideas on this subject, 
without attempting to bring them into harmony ; the fact 
is that, in Luther s case, we must resign ourselves to a 
certain want of sequence. 

He teaches : " Real faith is incompatible with any sin what 
soever ; whoever is a believer must resist sinful lusts by the 
power and the impulse of the faith and Spirit." 2 " Whoever has 
faith in the forgiveness of sins does not obey sinful lusts, but 
fights against them until he is rid of them." 3 Where mortal sin 
has been committed, there, according to him, real faith was 
manifestly lacking ; it had already been denied and was no 
longer active, or even present. A revival of faith, together with 
the necessary qualities of confidence, covers over all such sins, 
including the sin of unbelief. On the other hand, sins committed 
where faith was present, though for the moment too weak to offer 
resistance, were sins of frailty; there faith at once regains the 
upper hand and thus forgiveness or non-imputation of the sin is 
secured. The denial of Peter was, according to Luther, a sin of 
frailty, because it was merely due to " chance weakness and 
foolishness." Nevertheless he declares that, like the treason of 
Judas, it was deserving of death. 4 

Luther teaches further, affording us incidentally an insight 
into the inadequacy of his doctrine from another point of view, 
that, in the case of the heathen or of Christians who had no faith, 
not only was every sin a mortal sin, but also all works, even 
good works, were mortal sins ; indeed, they would be so even in 
the faithful, were it not for Christ, the Redeemer, Whom we 
must cling to with confidence. Moreover, as we know, man s 
evil inclinations, the motions of concupiscence, the bad tendencies 

Cp. vol. iv., xxviii. 3 and 4. Luther s famous " pecca fortiter " is 
discussed at length below (p. 199 ff.), and all that might tend to explain 
the words is passed in review. 

2 See J. Kostlin, " Luthers Theologie," 2 2 , 1901, p 215 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 50, p. 58. 
4 Cp. passages quoted by Kostlin, ibid. 


of the pious, were all grievous sins in Luther s eyes ; original sin 
with its involuntary effects he considers an enduring offence ; 
only faith, which merits forgiveness and overcomes the terrors 
of conscience by the saving knowledge of Christ, can ensure man 
against it, and the other sins. 

" Thus our salvation or rejection depends entirely on whether 
we believe or do not believe in Christ. . . . Unbelief retains all 
sin, so that it cannot be forgiven, just as faith cancels all sin ; 
hence outside of such faith everything is and remains sinful and 
worthy of damnation, even the best of lives, and the best of 
works. ... In faith a Christian s life and works are pleasing to 
God, outside of Christ everything is lost and doomed to perdition ; 
in Christ all is good and blessed, so that even the sin which flesh 
and blood inherits from Adam is neither a cause of harm nor of 
condemnation." " This, however, is not to be understood as a 
permit to sin and to commit evil ; for since faith brings forgive 
ness of sin ... it is impossible that he who lives openly un 
repentant and secure in his sins and lusts should be a Christian 
and a believer." 1 In conclusion he explains to what category of 
hearers he is speaking : " To them [the faithful] this is said, in 
order that sin may not harm nor condemn them ; to the others, 
who are without faith and reprobate, we do not preach." 2 
Amongst the numerous other questions which here force them 
selves upon us, one is, why Luther did not address his Evangel 
to those " without faith," and to the " reprobate," according to 
the example of Christ. 3 

The fanatics, particularly Carlstadt, were not slow in attacking 
Luther on account of his doctrine of faith alone. Carlstadt 
described this " faith " of Luther s as a " paper faith " and a 
"heartless faith." He perceived the "dangers to the interior 
life which might arise from the stress laid on faith alone, viz. the 
enfeebling of the moral powers and the growth of formalism." 4 
The modern Protestant biographer of Carlstadt, from whom 
these words are taken, points out that " moral laxity too often 
went hand-in-hand with Luther s doctrine of the forgiveness of 
sins." 5 " Owing to an assiduous depreciation of the moral code no 
criterion existed according to which the direction of ^the impulses 
of the will could be determined, according to Luther s doctrine of 
Justification." 6 The Lutheran teaching was " admirably adapted 
to suit the life of the individual," but the moral laxity which 
followed in its train " could not bo considered as merely an 
exceptional phenomenon." 7 There is no doubt that " much 
dross came to the surface when faith only was applied to the 
forgiveness of sins." 8 

A Protestant theologian, A. Hegler, one of those who demur 
to Luther s doctrines, mentioned above, owing to their moral con- 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 50, p. 58. 

2 Ibid., p. 59. 3 See above, p. 26. 

4 H. Barge, " Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt," 2, 1905, p. 73. 

5 Ibid., 2, p. 156. 6 Ibid-., p. 292. 

7 Ibid., p. 430. 8 Ibid,. 1, p. 213. 


sequences, remarks : "It remains that the idea of justification 
without works was, at the time of the Reformation, often found 
side by side with moral laxity, and that, sometimes, the latter was 
actually the effect of the former." Seeking the reason why so 
talented a man as Sebastian Franck should have seceded, after 
having been a Lutheran preacher till 1528, he remarks : " There 
is much to lead us to suppose that the sight of the moral in 
difference and coarseness of the evangelicals was the determining 
factor." 1 

After having considered Luther s principles with regard 
to the theory of sin, we now proceed to give some of his 
utterances on penance. 

Luther s Views on Penance 

Although he speaks of repentance as the first step towards 
salvation in the case of the sinner, yet the idea of repentance, 
remorse or contrition was ever rather foreign to him. He 
will not admit as valid any repentance aroused by the 
demands and menaces of the law ; 2 in the case of man, 
devoid of free will, it must be a result of Divine charity and 
grace ; repentance without a love of justice is, he says, 
at secret enmity with God and only makes the sin greater. 3 
Yet he also declares, not indeed as advocating penance as 
such, that it merely acts through faith " previous to and 
independently of all works," of which, as we know, he was 
always suspicious ; all that was needed Avas to believe " in 
God s Mercy," and repentance was already there. 4 

He is nevertheless in favour of the preachers exhorting 
Christians to repentance by diligent reference to the com 
mandments, and to the chastisements threatened by God, 
so as to instil into them a salutary fear. The law, he goes on 
to say, in contradiction to the above, must do its work, and 
by means of its terrors drive men to repentance even though 
love should have no part in it. Here he is perfectly conscious 
of the objection which might be raised, viz. that he had made 
" repentance to proceed from, and to be the result of, justify 
ing faith." To this he replies, that repentance itself forms 
part of the " common faith," because it is first necessary to 

" Geist und Schrift bei Sebastian Franck," Freiburg, 1892, p. 24 f. 

2 Kostlin, " Luthers Theologie," I 2 , p. 188. Luther does not admit 
the " timor servilis " of Catholic theology, and in his arbitrary fashion he 
represents it as equivalent to mere " fear of the gallows," " timor 
serviliter servilis.^ 3 Ibid., p. 190. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 506 ; Erl. ed., 31, p. 181. 


believe that there is a God Who commands and makes 
afraid ; this circumstance justifies the retention of penance, 
" for the sake of the common, unlearned folk." 1 

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, formulates her doctrino 
of penance and regeneration, for the most cultured as well as 
for the " common and unlearned," in terms simple and com 
prehensible, and in perfect accord with both Scripture and 
theology: Adults "are prepared for justification, when, moved 
and assisted by Divine grace . . . they, of their free will, turn 
to God, believing that those things are true which have been 
Divinely revealed and promised ; above all, that the ungodly is 
justified by God s grace and by the redemption which is in 
Christ Jesus ; recognising with a wholesome fear of the Divine 
Justice their sinfulness, they turn to God s mercy, and, being thus 
established in hope, gain the confidence that God, for Christ s 
sake, will be gracious to them. Thus they begin to love God as 
the source of all justice and to conceive a certain hatred ( odium 
aliquod ) and detestation for sin, i.e. to perform that penance 
which must take place previous to baptism. Finally, they must 
have the intention of receiving baptism, of commencing^ a new 
life and of observing the commandments of God." 2 "Those 
who, after having received the grace of justification, fall into sin 
[ without loss of faith ], 3 with God s help may again be justified, 
regaining through the Sacrament of Penance and Christ s merits 
the grace they had lost. . . . Christ Jesus instituted the Sacra 
ment of Penance when He said : Receive ye the Holy Ghost : 
whose sins ye shall forgive, they are forgiven them ; and whose 
sins ye shall retain, they are retained. Hence we must teach 
that the repentance of a sinner after falling into sin is very 
different from that which accompanies baptism, and involves 
not merely a turning away from, and a detestation for, sin, or 
a contrite and humble heart, but also a Sacramental confession 
of the sin, or at least a purpose of making such a confession in 
due season, and receiving the priestly absolution ; finally, it 
involves satisfaction by fasting, almsdeeds, prayer and other 
pious exercises." 4 

Such, according to the Catholic doctrine, is the process 
approved of by Holy Scripture, the various phases of which 
rest alike on religion and psychology, on the positive 
ordinances of God and on human nature. Luther, however, 
thrust all this aside ; his quest was for a simpler and easier 
method, through faith alone, by which sin may be vanquished 
or covered over. 

His moral character, so far as it reveals itself in his teach- 

1 Kostlin, ibid., p. 189. 

2 Council of Trent, Sess. VI., " decretum de iustificatione," c. 6. 

3 Ibid., c. 15. 4 Ibid., c. 14. 


ing, is here displayed in an unfavourable light, for he is never 
weary of emphasising the case with which sin can be covered 
over and that in language which must necessarily have 
had a bad effect on discipline when we might have expected 
to hear some earnest words on penance. A few of his sayings 
will help to make yet clearer his earlier statements. 

" You see how rich the Christian is," he says, "since, even 
should he desire it, he is unable to forfeit his salvation, no matter 
how many sins he may commit, unless indeed he refuses to believe 
( nisi nolit credere ). No sin but unbelief can bring him to 
damnation ; everything else is at once swept away by this faith, 
so soon as he returns to it, or recollects the Divine promise made 
to the baptised." 1 

" Christ s Evangel is indeed a mighty thing. . . . God s Word 
brings everything to pass speedily, bestows forgiveness of sins 
and the gift of eternal life ; and the cost of this is merely that 
you should hear the Word, and after hearing it believe. If you 
believe, then you possess it without any trouble, expense, delav 
or difficulty." 2 

" No other sin exists in the world save unbelief. All others 
are mere trifles, as when my little Hans or Lena misbehave them 
selves in the corner, for we all take that as a big joke. In the 
same way faith covers the stench of our filth before God. . . . 
All^sins shall be forgiven us if only we believe in the Son." 3 

As I have often said, the Kingdom of Christ is nothing else 
but forgiveness and perpetual blotting out of sin, which is extin 
guished, covered over, swept away and made clean while we are 
living here." " Christ makes things so easy for us who stand 
before God in fear and trembling." 4 

" Summa summarum : Our life is one long remissio peccatorum, 
and forgiveness of sin, otherwise it could not endure." 5 

Here, indeed, we have one of the main props of Luther s 
practical theology. To this the originator of the doctrine sought 
to remain faithful to the very end of his life, whereas certain 
other points of his teaching he was not unwilling to revise. His 
ideas on sin and repentance had sprung originally from his desire 
o relieve Ins own conscience, 6 and, of this, they ever retained 
the mark. The words and doctrine of a teacher are the best 
witnesses we have to his moral character, and here the doctrine 
is one which affords but little stimulus to virtue and Christian 
perfection, but rather the reverse. 

In what follows we shall consider more closely the relation 

f 1 "Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 529 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 5, p. 59, in the 
work De captivitate babylonica." 

" Werke," Erl. ed., 6 2 , p. 157, in the " Hauspostille." 
k j Ibid., 4, p. 131, " Hauspostille." Cp. Weim. ed., 36, p. 187 
[ 4 Ibid., p. 132, "Hauspostille." 
5 Ibid., 02, p. 207, " Tischreden." 6 Cp. vol. i., p. 289 if. 


between this doctrine and the effort after virtue, while at 
the same time taking into account that passivity nay, 
entire unfreedom of the will for doing what is good, pr< 
claimed by Luther. 

Luther on Efforts after Higher Virtue 
The effort to attain perfection and to become like to 
Christ, which is the highest aim of the Christian, is scarcely 
promoted by making the whole Gospel to consist merely 
in the happy enjoyment of forgiveness. The hard work 
required for the building up of a truly virtuous life on the 
rude soil of the world, necessarily involving sacrifice, s 
denial, humiliation and cheerful endurance of suffering, was 
more likely to be looked at askance and carefully avoide 
by those who clung to such a view. 

On the pretext of opposing the " false humility of the 
holy-by-works," Luther attacks many practices which have 
always been dear to pious souls striving after God. At 
same time he unjustly implies that the Catholics made 
holiness to consist merely in extraordinary works pe: 
formed, moreover, by human strength alone, without the 
assistance of grace. "This all comes from the same old 
craze," he declares; 1 "as soon as we hear of holiness we 
immediately think of great and excellent works and stem 
eapincr at the Saints in heaven as though they had got there 
by their own merits. What we say is that the Saints must 
be good, downright sinners." (See above, p. 180.) Ihe 
most holy state is that of those who believe that Christ 
alone is our holiness, and that by virtue of His holiness, as 
already stated, everything about us, our life and actions, ar< 
holy, iust as the person too is holy." 2 

After this, who can contend that Luther sets before the 
world the sublime and arduous ideal of a life of virtue such 
as has ever been cherished by souls inflamed with the love 
of Christ ? To rest content with a standard so low is mde 
to clip the wings of virtue. This is in no way compensated 
for by Luther s fervent exhortations to the Christian, 
confess the Word, more particularly in temptation and 
persecution," because true and exalted virtue was present 
wherever there was conflict on behalf of the Word 
preached by him], or by his asseveration, that ^ where 
i " Werke," Erl. ed., 50, p. 248. ~ Ibid - 


Word is and brings forth fruit so that men arc willing to 
suffer what must be suffered for it, there indeed w r c have 
living Saints." Living Saints ? Surely canonisation is 
here granted all too easily. Nor does Luther make good the 
deficiencies of his teaching, by depriving good works of any 
merit for heaven, or by requiring that they should be per 
formed purely out of love of God, without the least thought 
of reward. He thereby robs the practice of good works of 
a powerful stimulus, as much in conformity with the Will 
of God as with human nature. He is too ready here to 
assume that the faithful are angels, raised above all incentive 
arising from the hope of reward, though, else\vhere, he looks 
upon men only too much as of the earth earthly. 

At any rate he teaches that good works spring spon 
taneously from the faith by which man is justified, and that 
the outcome is a life of grace in which the faithful has every 
incentive to the performance of his duty and to works of 
charity towards his neighbour. He also knows how to 
depict such spontaneous, practical efforts on the part of the 
righteous in attractive colours and with great feeling. 
Passages of striking beauty have already been quoted above 
from his writings. Too often, as he himself complains, such 
good works are conspicuous by their absence among the 
followers of the evangelical faith ; he is disappointed to see 
that the new teaching on faith serves only to engender lazy 
hearts. Yet this was but natural ; nature cannot be over 
come even in the man who is justified without an effort on 
his part ; without exertion, self-sacrifice, self-conquest and 
prayer no one can make any progress and become better 
pleasing to God ; not holiness-by-works, but the sanctifying 
of our works, is the point to be aimed at, and, for this purpose, 
Holy Scripture recommends no mere presumptuous, fiducial 
faith as the starting-point, but rather a pious fear of God, 
combined with a holy life ; no mere reliance on a mis 
apprehension of the freedom of the children of God, but 
rather severe self-discipline, watchfulness and mortification 
of the whole man, who, freely and of his own accord, must 
make himself the image of his crucified Saviour. Those of 
Luther s followers who, to their honour, succeeded in so 
doing, did so, and were cheered and comforted, not by 
following their leader s teaching, but by the grace of God 
which assists every man. 



We must, however, refer to another point of importance 
already once discussed. Why speak at all of good works 
and virtue, when Luther s doctrine of the passivity and 
unfreedom of the will denies the existence of all liberty as 
regards either virtue or sin ? (See vol. ii., p. 223 ff.) 

Luther s doctrine of Justifying Faith is closely bound 
up with his theories on the absence of free will, man s 
inability to what do is good, and the total depravity of 
human nature resulting from original sin. In his " De servo 
arbitrio" against Erasmus, Luther deliberately makes the 
absence of free will the basis of his view of life. 

Deprived of any power of choice or self-determination, 
man is at the mercy of external agents, diabolical or Divine, 
to such an extent that he is unable to will except what they 
will. Whoever has and keeps the Spirit of God and the 
faith cannot do otherwise than fulfil the Will of God ; but 
whoever is under the domination of the devil is his spiritual 
captive. To sum up what was said previously : man 
retains at most the right to dispose of things inferior to him, 
not, however, any actual, moral freedom of choice, still less 
any liberty for doing what is good such as would exclude all 
interior compulsion. He is created for eternal death or for 
everlasting life ; his destiny he cannot escape ; his lot is 
already pre-ordained. Luther s doctrine brings him into 
line, even as regards the " harshest consequences of the 
predestinarian dogma, withZwingli, Calvin, and Melanchthon 
in his earliest evangelical Theology." 1 According to one of 
the most esteemed of Lutheran theologians, " what finds 
full and comprehensive expression in the work De servo 
arbitrio is simply the conviction which had inspired 
Luther throughout his struggle for his pet doctrine of salva 
tion, viz. the doctrine of the pure grace of God as against 
the prevailing doctrine of free will and man s own works." s 
According to this theory, in spite of the lack of free will, 
God requires of man that he should keep the moral law, 
and, to encourage him, sets up a system of rewards and 
punishments. Man is constrained to this as it were in 
mockery, that, as Luther says, God may make him to realise 
his utter powerlessness. 3 God indeed deplores the spiritual 
1 Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 6G4. Cp. Kostlin, " Lathers Theologie," 
12 p. 370. 2 Kostlin, ibid., p. 3G9. 

8 " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 691 ff. ; " Opp. lat. var., 7, p. 231 
seq., " De servo arbitrio." 


ruin of His people this much the author is willing to allow 
to his opponent Erasmus but, the God Who does so is the 
God of revelation, not the Hidden God. " The God Who 
conceals Himself beneath His Majesty grieves not at man s 
undoing, He takes no step to remedy it, but works all things, 
both life and death." God, " by that unsearchable know 
ledge of His, wills the death of the sinner." 1 

" Even though Judas acted of his own will and without 
compulsion, still his willing was the work of God, Who moved 
him by His Omnipotence as He moves all things." 2 In the 
same way, according to Luther, the hardening of Pharao s 
heart was in the fullest sense God s work. 3 Adam s sin 
likewise is to be traced back to the Will of God. 4 We must 
not ask, however, how all this can be reconciled with the 
goodness and justice of God. We must not expect God to act 
according to human law. 5 

It was necessary to recall the above in order to show how 
such a doctrine robs the moral law of every inward relation 
to its last end, and degrades it till it becomes a mere outward, 
arbitrary barrier. Luther may well thank his want of logic 
that this system failed to be carried to its extremest con 
sequences ; the ways of the world are not those of the 

Who but God can be held responsible in the last instance 
for the world being, as Luther complains, the " dwelling- 
place " of the devil, and his very kingdom ? According to 
him the devil is its "Prince and God"; 6 every place is 
packed with devils. 7 Indeed, " the whole world is Satanic 
and to a certain extent identified with Satan." 8 "In such a 
kingdom all the children of Adam are subject to their lord 
and king, i.e. the devil." 9 Such descriptions given by 
Luther are often so vivid that one might fancy the devil 

1 Kostlin, ibid., p. 359. 

"Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 715; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 2C3 
De servo arbitrio" 

I Ibid., p. 711 =p. 258. * Cp. Kostlin, ibid.., p. 355. 

o Kostlin, ibid., p. 359. Kostlin admits the " questionable character " 
ot the doctrine, though in rather mild language e e p 370 

l ^ Werke," Erl. ed., 20, I 2 , p. 163. 
^" Prussia est plena dcemonibus," etc. Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," 

" T he ,, devil is in the world, vel potius ipse mundus concretive vel 
abstractive. Letter of January 3, 1534, to Amsdorf, " Brief wechsel," 
.% p. o / o. 

8 "Werke," Erl. ed., 20, I 2 , p. 163. 


was making war upon God almost like some independent 
power. Luther, however, admits that the devil has " only 
a semblance of the Godhead, and that God has reserved 
to Himself the true Godhead." 1 Ethically the consequence 
of such a view of the world is a pessimism calculated to 
lame both the powers and the desires of anyone striving 
after higher aims. 

Luther s pessimism goes so far, that too often he is ready to 
believe that, unlike the devil, Christ loves " to show Him 
self weak" in man. He writes, for instance, that Satan 
desired to drag him in his toils down into the abyss, but that 
the " weak Christ " was ever victorious, or at least " fight 
ing bravely." 2 That it was possible for Christ to be over 
come he would not have allowed, yet, surely, an excuse 
might have been sought for man s failings in Christ s own 
" weakness," particularly if man is really devoid of free will 
for doing what is good. 

Luther was always fond of imputing weaknesses and sins 
to the Saints. Their works he regarded as detracting from 
the Redemption and the Grace of Christ, which can be 
appropriated only by faith. Certain virtues manifested by 
the Saints and their heroic sacrifices Luther denounced as 
illusions, as morally impossible and as mere idolatry. 

" The Apostles themselves were sinners, yea, regular scoundrels, 
... I believe that the prophets also frequently sinned grievously, 
for they were men like us." 3 He quotes examples from the 
history of the Apostles previous to the descent of the Holy Ghost. 
Elsewhere he alludes to the failings they betrayed even in later life. 
" To hear " that the Apostles, even after they had received the 
Holy Ghost, were " sometimes weak in the faith," is, lie says, 
" very consoling to me and to all Christians." Peter " not only 
erred " in bis treatment of the Gentile Christians (Gal. ii. 11 ff.) 
" but sinned grossly and grievously." The separation of Paul 
and Barnabas (Acts xv. 39) was very blameworthy. " Such 
instances," he says, " are placed before us for our comfort ; for 
it is very consoling to hear that such great Saints have also 
sinned." " Samson, David and many other fine and mighty 
characters, filled as they were with the Holy Ghost, fell into 
great sins," which is a " splendid consolation to faint-hearted 
and troubled consciences." Paul himself did not believe as 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 65. 

2 To Justus Jonas, December 29, 1527, " Brief wechsel," 6, p. 163 : 
" Christus infirmus per vestras orationes adhnc superat vel saltern pugnat 
fortiter" Cp. " Briefwechsel," 6, p. 173. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 165, " Table-Talk." 


firmly as he spoke ; he was, in point of fact, better able to speak 
and write than to believe. " It would scarcely be right for us to 
do all that God has commanded, for then what need would there 
be for the forgiveness of sins ? J>1 

" Unless God had told us how foolishly the Saints themselves 
acted, we should not have been able to arrive at the knowledge 
of His Kingdom, which is nothing else but the forgiveness of 
sins. 2 Here He is referring to the stumbling and falls of the 
Patriarchs ; he adds : " What wonder that we stumble ? And 
yet this is no cloak or excuse for committing sin." Nevertheless, 
he speaks of Abraham, whom he credits with having fallen into 
idolatry and sin, as though holiness of life were of no great 
importance : " Believe as he did and you are just as holy as he." 3 
" We must interpret all these stories and examples as told of 
men like ourselves ; it is a delusion to make such a fuss about 
the Saints. We ought to say : If they were holy, why, so are we ; 
if we are sinners, why, so were they ; for we are all bom of the 
same flesh and blood and God created us as much as He did them ; 
one man is as good as another, and the only difference between 
us is faith. If you have faith and the Word of God, you are just 
as great ; you need not trouble yourself about being of less 
importance than he, unless your faith is less strong." 4 

By his " articulus remissionis^ the constantly reiterated 
Evangel of the forgiveness of sins by faith, Luther certainly 
succeeded in putting down the mighty from their seats, but 
whether he inspired the lowly to qualify for their possession 
is quite another question. 

On the unsafe ground of the assurance of salvation by 
faith alone even the fanatics were unwilling to stand ; their 
preference was for a certain interior satisfaction to be secured 
by means of works. Hence they and their teaching to tell 
the truth a very unsatisfactory one became a target for 
Luther s sarcasm. By a pretence of strict morals they 
would fain give the lie to the words of the Our Father, 
" Forgive us our trespasses " ; " but we are determined not 
to make the Our Father untrue, nor to reject this article 
(the remissio peccatorum ), but to retain it as our most 
precious treasure, in which lies our safety and salvation." 5 
An over-zealous pursuit of sanctity and the works of the 
Spirit might end by detracting from a trusting reliance upon 
Christ, In Catholic times, for instance, the two things, 

1 Schlaginhaufen, " Tischreden," p. 133. The passage will be given 
in detail later. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 24, p. 355 ; Erl. ed., 33, p 374 
3 Ibid., p. 341-359. 4 Ibid 342 = 360 

5 " Werke," Erl.-ed., 18 2 , p. 356 f. 


works and faith, had, so he complains, been " hopelessly 
mixed." " This, from the beginning until this very day, 
has been a stumbling-block and hindrance to the new 
doctrine of faith. If we preach works, then an end is made 
of faith ; hence, if we teach faith, works must go to the 
wall." 1 

We must repeat, that, by this, Luther did not mean to 
exclude works ; on the contrary, he frequently counsels 
their performance. He left behind him many instructions 
concerning the practice of a devout life, of which we shall 
have to speak more fully later. On the other hand, how 
ever, we can understand how, on one occasion, he refused 
to draw up a Christian Rule of Life, though requested to do 
so by his friend Bugenhagen, arguing that such a thing was 
superfluous. We can well understand his difficulty, for 
how could he compile a rule for the promotion of practical 
virtue when he was at the same time indefatigable in con 
demning the monkish practices of prayer and meditation, 
pious observances and penitential exercises, as mere 
formalities and outgrowths of the theory of holiness-by- 
works ? It was quite in keeping with his leading idea, and 
his hatred of works, that he should stigmatise the whole 
outward structure of the Christian life known hitherto as 
a mere " service of imposture." 

" Christ has become to all of us a cloak for our shame." 2 

" Our life and all our doings must not have the honour 
and glory of making us children of God and obtaining for us 
forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. What is necessary 
is that you should hear Christ saying to you : " Good 
morning, clear brother, in Me behold your sin and death 
vanquished. The law has already been fulfilled, viz. by 
Christ, so that it is not necessary to fulfil it, but only to hang 
it by faith around Him who fulfils it, and to become like 
Him." 3 

" This is the Evangel that brings help and salvation to 
the conscience in despair. . . . The law with its demands 
had disheartened, nay, almost slain it, but now comes this 
sweet and joyful message." 4 

1 Cp., ibid., p. 279 ff. 

2 Letter to Reissenbusch, March 27, 1525, " Werke," Weim. ed., 
18, p. 277 ; Erl. ed., 53, p. 288 (" Briefwechsel," 5, p. 145). 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed.. 1, p. 105. 
* Ibid. 


" Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more boldly 
still." 1 

Luther s " Pecca fortiter." 

In what has gone before, that we might the better see how 
Luther s standard of life compared with his claim to a higher 
calling, we have reviewed in succession his advice and conduct 
with regard to one of the principal moral questions of the 
Christian life, viz. how one is to behave when tempted to 
despondency and to despair of one s salvation ; further, his 
attitude theoretical and practical towards sin, penance 
and the higher tasks and exercises of Christian virtue. On 
each several point the ethical defects of his system came 
to light, in spite of all his efforts to conceal them by appealing 
to the true freedom of the Christian, to the difference between 
the law and the Gospel, or to the power of faith in the merits 
of Christ. 

On glancing back at what has been said, we can readily 
understand why those Catholic contemporaries, who took 
up the pen against Luther and his followers, directed their 
attacks by preference on these points of practical morality. 
Johann Fabri (i.e. Schmidt) of Heilbronn, who filled the 
office of preacher at Augsburg Cathedral until he was forced 
to vacate the pulpit owing to the prohibition issued by the 
Magistrates against Catholic preaching in 1534, wrote at a 
later date, in 1553, in his work " The Right Way," of Luther 
and those preachers who shared his point of view : " The 
sweet, sugary preachers who encourage the people in their 
wickedness say : The Lord has suffered for us, good works 
are unclean and sinful, a good, pious and honest life with 
fasting, etc., is mere Popery and hypocrisy, the Lord has 
merited heaven for us and our goodness is all worthless. 
These and such-like are the sweet, sugary words they preach, 
crying : Peace, Peace ! Heaven has been thrown open 
only believe and you are already justified and heirs of 
heaven. Thus wickedness gets the upper hand, and those 
things which draw down upon us the wrath of God and rob 
us of eternal life are regarded as no sin at all. But the end 
shall prove whether the doctrine is of God, as the fruit 
shows whether the tree is good. What terror and distress 
has been caused in JGermany by those who boast of the new 

1 See below, p. 196. 


Gospel it is easier to bewail than to describe. Ungodliness, 
horrible sins and vices hold the field ; greater and more 
terrible evil, fear and distress have never before been heard 
of, let alone seen in Germany." 1 

Matthias Sittardus, from the little town of Sittard in the 
Duchy of Jiilich, a zealous and energetic worker at Aachen, 
wrote as follows of Luther s exhortations quoted above : 
" The result is that men say, What does sin matter ? Christ 
took it away on the cross ; the evil that I do for I must 
sin and cannot avoid it He is ready to bear ; He will 
answer for it and refrain from imputing it to me ; I have 
only to believe and off it goes like a flash. Good works have 
actually become a reproach and are exposed to contempt 
and abuse." 2 Elsewhere he laments, that "there is much 
glorying in and boasting of faith," but of " good works and 
actions little " is seen. 3 

Alluding to man s unfreedom for doing what is good, as 
advocated by Luther, Johann Mensing, a scholarly and busy 
popular writer, says : " They [the preachers] call God a 
sinner and maintain that God does all our sins in us. And 
when they have sinned most grievously they argue that 
such was God s Will, and that they could do nothing but by 
God s Will. They look upon the treachery of Judas, the 
adultery of David and Peter s denial as being simply the 
work of God, just as much as the best of good deeds." 4 

The words quoted above : " Be a sinner and sin boldly, 
but believe more boldly still," are Luther s own. 

The saying, which must not be taken apart from the context, 
was employed by Luther in a letter to Melanchthon, on August 1, 
152 1. 6 The writer, who was then at the Wartburg, was engaged 

1 " Der rechte Weg. Welche Weg oder Strass der Glaubig wandohi 
soil," etc. Dillingen, 1553. The passages are quoted by N. Paulus, 
" Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe gegen Luther," p. 252. 

2 " Christl. Predigt. an S. Matthei Tag," Mainz, 1557, in Paulus, 
ibid., p. 168. 

3 " Predigten iiber die erste Canon. Epistel Johannis," Cologne, 
1571. Paulus, ibid. t p. 173. 

4 " Vormeldunge der Unwahrheit Lutherscher Clage," Frankfurt 
a.d. Oder, 1532, Paulus, ibid., p. 33. The three writers above quoted were 
all Dominica.ns. Luther s Catholic contemporaries cannot have been 
acquainted with his " Pecca ortiter" otherwise their language would 
have been even stronger. 

5 " Brief wechsel," 3, p. 208. The letter no longer exists in its 
entirety. One portion, however, became known and was published by 
Joh. Aurifaber in 1556 in the first vol. of Luther s letters (p. 343) and 


in a " heated struggle " x on the question of the Church, and on 
religious vows, for the setting aside of which he was seeking a 
ground. At the Wartburg he was, on his own confession, a prey 
to " temptations and sins," 2 though in this he only saw the proof 
that his Evangel would triumph over the devil. The letter is 
the product of a state of mind, restless, gloomy and exalted, and 
culminates in a prophetic utterance concerning God s approaching 
visitation of Germany on account of its persecution of the 

The passage which at present interests us, taken together with 
the context, runs thus : 

" If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a real, not a 
fictitious grace ; if your grace is real, then let your sin also be real 
and not fictitious. God does not save those who merely fancy 
themselves sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more 
boldly still ( esto peccator et pecca fortiter, sed fortius fide ) ; and 
rejoice in Christ, Who is the conqueror of sin, death and the 
world ; we must sin as long as we are what we are. This life is 
not the abode of justice, but we look for a new heaven and a new 
earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, as Peter says. It suffices 
that by the riches of the glory of God we have come to know the 
Lamb, Who taketh away the sin of the world ; sin shall not drag 
us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder 
thousands and thousands of times a day. Do you think that the 
price and the ransom paid for our sins by this sublime Lamb is 
so insignificant ? Pray boldly, for you are in truth a very bold 

This is language of the most extravagant paradox. What it 
really means is very objectionable. Melanchthon is to pray very 
fervently with the hope of obtaining the Divine assistance 
against sin, but at the same time he is to sin boldly. This 
language of the Wartburg is not unlike that in which Luther 
wrote, from the Castle of Coburg, to his pupil, Hieronymus 
Weller, when the latter was tempted to despair, to encourage him 
against the fear of sin (above, p. 175 f.) ; that letter too was written 
in anguish of spirit and in a state of excitement similar to what 
he had experienced in the Wartburg. We might, it is true, admit 
that, in these words Luther gave the rein to his well-known 
inclination to put things in the strongest light, a tendency to be 
noticed in some of his other statements quoted above. On the 
other hand, however, the close connection between the com 
promising words and his whole system of sin and grace, can scarcely 
be denied ; we have here something more than a figure of rhetoric. 
Luther s endeavour was to reassure, once and for all, Melanchthon, 

described as " Fragmentum epistolce D.M. Lutheri ad Philippum 
Melanchthonem ex Pathmo scriptce, a. MDXXI., repertum in bibliotheca 
Oeorgii Spalatini," Melanchthon had possibly sent the extract to 
Spalatin when the latter was troubled regarding his own salvation. 

1 (See below.) " Vides quantis urgear cestibus," etc. To Melanch 
thon, August 3, 1521, " Brief wechsel, 3, p. 213. 

2 See vol. ii., p. 82 f. 


who was so prone to anxiety. The latter shrank from many of 
the consequences of Luther s doctrines, and at that time was 
possibly also a prey to apprehension concerning the forgiveness 
of his own sins. Hence the writer of the letter seeks to convince 
him that the strength of the fiducial faith preached by himself, 
Luther, was so great, that no sense of sin need trouble a man. 
To have "real, not fictitious, sin" to him, means as much as : 
Be bold enough to look upon yourself as a great sinner ; . 
a sinner," means : Do not be afraid of appearing to be a sinner 
in your own sight ; Melanchthon is to be a bold sinner in his 
own eyes in order that he may be the more ready to ascribe all 
that is good to the grace which works all. Thus far there is 
nothing which goes beyond Luther s teaching elsewhere. 

The passage is, however, more than a mere paradoxical way 
of expressing the doctrine dear to him. 

Luther hefe and throughout the letter, does not say what ] 
ought necessarily to have said to one weighed down by the 
consciousness of sin; of remorse and compunction we nea 
nothing whatever, nor does he give due weight and importance 
to the consciousness of guilt ; he misrepresents grace, making 
appear as a mere outward, magical charm, by which according 
to an expression which cannot but offend every religious mind- 
a man is justified even though he be a murderer and a libertine a 
thousand times over. Luther s own words here are perhaps the 
best refutation of the Lutheran doctrine of Justification, for 
speaks of sin, even of the worst, in a way that well lays bare the 
weaknesses of the system of fiducial faith. 

It is unfortunate that Luther should have impressed such a 
stigma upon his principal doctrine, both in his earliest statements 
of it, for instance, in his letter to George Spenlein in 1516, and, 
again, in one of his last epistles to a friend, also tormented by 
scruples of conscience, viz. George Spalatin. 1 

In the above-mentioned letter to Melanchthon, in which 
Luther expresses his contempt for sin by the words " Pecca 
fortiter" he is not only encouraging his friend with regard 

1 Passages tallying with the " Esto pcccator " are to be found else 
where in Luther s writings. Cp. for instance his letter of 1516 (vol. i., 
p. 88 f.) to Spenlein, where he says : " Cave, ne ahquando ad tantam 
puritatem aspires, ut pcccator tibi videri nolis, imo esse. Chnstus emm 
nonnisi in peccatoribus habitat. . . . Igitur nonnisi w ^llo paccm 
invenies " In " Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 236 seq., it is likewise explained 
why one must be a great sinner ; he insists that " credenti omma sunt 
auctore Christo possibilia " and condemns strongly " affecLus propnce 
iustitice" until he arrives at the paradox, " Ideo est pcccatum, ut in 
peccatis apti ad speni simus " (p. 239). In perfect harmony with such 
early statements is the letter he wrote towards the end of his hie 
Spalatin when the latter was sunk in melancholy ; here he says : 
" "Nimis tener hactenus fuisti peccator. . . . lunge te nobis veris magms 
et duris peccatoribus " ; he must, so Christ speaking through Luther 
tells him, hold alone to faith in the Divine mercv. August 21, 1544, 
" Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 680. 


to possible sins of the past, but is also thinking of tempta 
tions in the future. His advice is : Sin boldly and fear 
lessly whereas what one would have expected would have 
been : Should you fall, don t despair. The underlying idea 
is : No sin is so detestable as to affright the believer, which 
is further explained by the wanton phrase : " even should 
we commit fornication or murder thousands and thousands 
of times a day." 

However much stress we may be disposed to lay on 
Luther s warnings against sin, and whatever allowance we 
may make for his rhetoric, still the " Peccafortiter " stands out 
as the result of his revolt against the traditional view of sin 
and grace, with which his own doctrine of Justification refused 
to be reconciled. These inauspicious words are the culmination 
of Luther s practical ideas on religion, borne witness to by 
so many of his statements, which, at the cost of morality, 
give the reins to human freedom and to disorder. Such was 
the state of mind induced in him by the spirits of the 
Wartburg, such the enthusiasm which followed his " spiritual 
baptism " on his " Patmos," that isle of sublime revelations. 

Such is the defiance involved in the famous saying that an 
impartial critic, Johann Adam Mohler, in his " Symbolism " 
says : " Although too much stress must not be laid on the 
passage, seeing how overwrought and excited the author 
was, yet it is characteristic enough and important from the 
point of view of the history of dogma." 1 G. Barge, in 
his Life of Carlstadt, says, that Luther in his letter to 
Melanchthon had reduced " his doctrine of Justification by 
faith alone to the baldest possible formula." 2 " If Catholic 
research continues to make this [the Pecca fortiter ] its 
point of attack, we must honestly admit that there is reason 
in its choice." 

The last words are from Walter Kohler, now at the University 
of Zurich, a Protestant theologian and historian, who has severely 
criticised all Luther s opinions on sin and grace. 3 

One of the weak points of Luther s theology lies, according 
to Kohler, 4 in the " clumsiness of his doctrine of sin and salva- 

1 " Symbolik," 16, p. 161. 

2 1, p. 301. Other Protestant writers, such as Carove (" Allein- 
sehgmachende Kirche," 2, p. 434 (see K. A. Hase, " Polemik," 4 
p. 267), declared it to be "a downright calumny to say that so shocking 
a doctrine occurred in a work of Luther s." 

" Katholizismus und Reformation," p. 58. 

" Ein Wort zu Denifles Luther," Tubingen, 1904. pp. 38-45. 


tion." " How, in view of the total corruption of man " (through 
original sin, absence of free will and loss of all power), can redemp 
tion be possible at all unless by some mechanical and super 
natural means ? Luther says : " By faith alone." But his 
"faith is something miraculous, in which psychology has no 
part whatever ; the corruption is mechanical and so is the act 
of grace which removes it." In Luther s doctrine of sin, as 
Kohler remarks, the will, the instrument by which the process 
of redemption should be effected, becomes a steed ridden 
cither by God or by the devil. If the Almighty is the horseman, 
He throws Satan out of the saddle, and vice versa ; the steed, 
however, remains entirely helpless and unable to rid himself ot 
his rider. In such a system Christ, the Redeemer, must appear 
as a sort of deus ex machina, who at one blow sets everything 
right." It would not be so bad, were at least " the Almighty to 
overthrow Satan. But He remains ever seated in heaven, i.e. 
Luther never forgets to impress on man again and again that he 
cannot get out of sin : The Saints remain always sinners at 

heart. " 

Although, proceeds Kohler, better thoughts, yea, even inspiring 
ones, are to be found in Luther s writings, yet the peculiar 
doctrines just spoken of were certainly his own, at utter variance 
though they be with our way of looking at the process of in 
dividual salvation, viz. from the psychological point of view, 
and of emphasising the personal will to be saved. " In spite of 
Luther s plain and truly evangelical intention of attributing to 
God alone all the honour of the work of salvation," he was never 
able " clearly to comprehend the personal, ethico-rehgious 
value of faith " ; " on the contrary, he makes man to be shifted 
hither and thither, by the hand of God, like a mere pawn, and in 
a fashion entirely fatalistic"; "when Christ enters, then, 
according to him, all is well ; I am no longer a sinner, I am set 
free" (" iam ego peccatum non habeo et sum liber") 1 ; 
where does the ethical impulse come in ? " Seeing that sin is 
merely covered over, and, as a matter of fact, still remains, 
man must, according to Luther, " set to work to conquer i 
without, however, ever being entirely successful in this task, 01 
rather he must strengthen his assurance of salvation, viz. his 
faith. Such is Luther s ethics." The critic rightly points out, 
that this " system of ethics is essentially negative," viz. merely 
directs man how " not to fall " from the " pedestal " on which 
he is set up together with Christ. Man, by faith, is raised so high, 
that, as Luther says, "nothing can prejudice his salvation " ; 2 
" Christian freedom means . . . that we stand in ^no need of 
any works in order to attain to piety and salvation." 3 

1 Kohler here quotes Denifle (" Luther," p. 442 ; ed. 2, p. 465), who 
gives these words in their full context from Luther s MS. Commentary 
on Romans. We may point out that Denifle quotes an abundance of 
similar passages from Luther s works, amongst which those taken from 
his early Commentary on Romans are particularly interesting. 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 7, p. 27 ; Erl. ed., 27, p. 185 ; Kohler, 
t6.,p.43f. 3 Ibid., p. 25-181 = 44. 


3. Luther s Admissions Concerning His own 
Practice of Virtue 

St. Paul, the far-seeing Apostle of the Gentiles, says of 
the ethical effects of the Gospel and of faith : " Those who 
are Christ s have crucified their flesh with the lusts thereof. 
If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit." He 
instances as the fruits of the Spirit : " Patience, longanimity, 
goodness, benignity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, 
chastity " (Gal. v. 22 ff.). Amongst the qualities which must 
adorn a teacher and guide of the faithful he instances to 
Timothy the following : "It behoveth him to be blameless, 
sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, no striker, not 
quarrelsome ; he must have a good testimony of them that 
are without, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure 
conscience " (1 Tim. iii. 2 ff.). Finally he sums up all in the 
exhortation : "Be thou an example to the faithful in word, 
in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity " (ibid., iv. 

It seems not unjust to expect of Luther that his standard 
of life should be all the higher, since, in opposition to all the 
teachers of his day and of bygone ages, and whilst professing 
to preach nought but the doctrine of Christ, he had set up a 
new system, not merely of faith, but also of morals. At 
the very least the power of his Evangel should have mani 
fested itself in his own person in an exceptional manner. 

How far was this the case ? What was the opinion of his 
contemporaries and what was his own ? 

Catholics were naturally ever disposed to judge Luther s 
conduct from a standpoint different from that of Luther s 
own followers. A Catholic, devoted to his Church, regarded 
as his greatest blemish the conceit of the heresiarch and 
devastator of the fold ; to him it seemed intolerable that a 
disobedient and rebellious son of the Church should display 
such pride as to set himself above her and the belief of 
antiquity and should attack her so hatefully. As for his 
morality, his sacrilegious marriage with a virgin dedicated 
to God, his incessant attacks upon celibacy and religious 
vows, and his seducing of countless souls to break their 
most sacred promises, were naturally sufficient to debase 
him in the eyes of most Catholics. 

There were, however, certain questions which both 


Catholics and Lutherans could ask and answer impartially : 
Did Luther possess in any eminent degree the fiducial faith 
which he represented as so essential ? Did this faith produce 
in him those fruits he extols as its spontaneous result, above 
all a glad heart at peace with God and man ? Further : 
How far did he himself come up even to that comparatively 
low standard to which, theoretically, he reduced Christian 


If we seek from Luther s own lips an estimate ol his 
virtues, we shall hear from him many frank statements on 
the subject. 

The first place belongs to what he says ol his lait 
personal assurance of salvation. 

Of faith, he wrote to Melanchthon, who was tormented 
with doubts and uncertainty : " To you and to us all may 
God give an increase of faith. ... If we have no faith in 
us, why not at least comfort ourselves with the faith that 
is in others ? For there must needs be others who believe 
instead of us, otherwise there would be no Church left in the 
world, and Christ would have ceased to be with us till the 
end of time. If He is not with us, where then is He in the 

world?" 1 

He complains so frequently of the weakness of his own 
faith that we arc vividly reminded how greatly he himself 
stood in need of the " consolation " of dwelling on the faith 
that was in others. He never, it is true, attributes to him 
self actual unbelief, or a wilful abandon of trust in the 
promises of Christ, yet he does speak in strangely forcible 
terms and with no mere assumed humility or modesty- 
of the weakness of this faith and of the inconstancy of his 

Of the devil, who unsettles him, he says : " Often I am shaken 
but not always." 2 To the devil it was given to play the part ol 
torturer. " I prefer the tormentor of the body to the torturer of 
the soul " 3 " Alas, the Apostles believed, of this there can be 
no doubt ; I can t believe, and yet I preach faith to others. 

1 On June 29, 1530, from the fortress of Coburg, " Brief wechsel," 
8, p. 44. Melanchthon had told Luther his fears and anxieties on 
account of the impending discussion of the point of faith befo 
Diet of Augsburg. Luther is encouraging him. 

2 To Melanchthon, June 27, 1530, " Briefwechsel, 8, p. 35. 

3 In the letter quoted above, n. 1 (p. 43) : " carmficem ilium 


know that it is true, yet believe it I cannot." 1 " I know Jonas, 
and if he [like Christ] were to ascend to heaven and disappear out 
of our sight, what should I then think ? And when Peter said : 
In the name of Jesus, arise [Acts iii. 6], what a marvel that 
was ! I don t understand it and I can t believe it ; and yet all 
the Apostles believed." 2 

" I have been preaching for these twenty years, and read and 
written, so that I ought to see my way . . . and yet I cannot 
grasp the fact, that I must rely on grace alone ; and still, other 
wise it cannot be, for the mercy-seat alone must count and 
remain since God has established it ; short of this no man can 
reach God. Hence it is no wonder that others find it so hard 
to accept faith in its purity, more particularly when these devil- 
preachers [the Papists] add to the difficulty by such texts as : 
Do this and thou shalt live, item Wilt thou enter into life, 
keep the commandments (Luke x. 28 ; Matthew xix. 17). " 3 

He is unable to find within him that faith which, according 
to his system, ought to exist, and, in many passages, he even 
insists on its difficulty in a very curious manner. " Ah, dear 
child, if only one could believe firmly," he said to his little 
daughter, who " was speaking of Christ with joyful confidence " ; 
and, in answer to the question, " whether then he did not believe," 
he replied by praising the innocence and strong faith of children, 
whose example Christ bids us follow. 4 

In the notes among which these words are preserved there 
follows a collection of similar statements belonging to various 
periods : " This argument, The just shall live in his faith 
(Hab. ii. 4), the devil is unable to explain away. But the point 
is, who is able to lay hold on it ? " 5 "I, alas, cannot believe as 
firmly as I can preach, speak and write, and as others fancy I 
am able to believe." 6 When the Apostle of the Gentiles speaks 
of dying daily (1 Cor. xv. 31), this means, so Luther thinks, that 
he had doubts about his own teaching. In the same way Christ 
withdraws Himself from him, Luther, " so that at times I say : 
Truly I know not where I stand, or whether I am preaching 
aright or not." 7 " I used to believe all that the Pope and the 
monks said, but now I am unable to believe w r hat Christ says, 
Who cannot lie. This is an annoying business, but we shall keep 
it for that [the Last] Day." 8 

" Conscience s greatest consolation," he also says, according 
to the same notes, " is simply the Lord Christ," and he proceeds 
to describe in detail this consolation in language of much power, 
agreeably with his doctrine of Justification. He, however, 
concludes : " But I cannot grasp this consoling doctrine, I can 
neither learn it nor bear it in mind." 9 

" I am very wretched owing to the weakness of my faith ; 

1 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 98. 

2 Ibid., p. 79. 3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 19, p. 325. 
4 Ibid., 58, p. 363 f. 5 Ibid., p. 374. 

6 Ibid., p. 380. Ibid., p. 26. 

8 Ibid., p. 385. 8 Ibid., p. 402. 


hardly can I find any comfort in the death and resurrection 
of Christ, or in the article of the forgiveness of sins. . . . I 
cannot succeed in laying hold on the essential treasure, viz. 
the free forgiveness of sins." 1 

"It is a difficult matter to spring straight from my sins to 
the righteousness of Christ, and to be as certain that Christ s 
righteousness is mine as I am that my own body is mine. . . . 
I am astonished that I cannot learn this doctrine." 2 

In a passage already quoted Luther rightly described the task 
he assigned to grace and faith as something " which affrights a 
man," for which reason it is "hard for him to believe ; he 
himself had often, so to speak, to fight his way out of hell, 
it costs much before one obtains consolation." 

Such statements we can well understand if we put ourselves in 
his place. The effects he ascribed to fiducial faith were so 
difficult of attainment and so opposed to man s natural 
position, that never-ending uncertainty was the result, both u 
his own case and in that of many others. Moreover, he, or rather 
his peculiar interpretation of Holy Scripture, was the only 
guarantee of his doctrine, whereas the Catholic Church took her 
stand upon the broad and firm basis of a settled, traditional 
interpretation, and traced back her teaching to an authority 
instituted by God and equipped with infallibility. In his temp 
tations of faith," Luther clung to the most varied arguments, 
dwelling at one time on the fact of his election, at another on the 
depravity of his opponents, now on the malice of the devil sent 
to oppose him, now on the supposed advantages of his doctrine, 
as for instance, that it gave all the honour to God alone an- 
made an end of everything human, even of free will : bnov 
Satan take advantage of this and ally himself with the flesh and 
with reason, then conscience becomes affrighted and despairs, 
unless you resolutely enter into yourself and say : Even should 
Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, St. Peter, Paul, John, nay, an 
angel from heaven, teach otherwise, yet I know for a certainty 
that what I teach is not human but divine, i.e. that I ascrib 
to God and nothing to man." 3 

" I do not understand it, I am unable to believe ... I cannot 
believe and yet I teach others. I know that it is right and yet 
believe it I cannot. Sometimes I think : You teach the truth, 
for you have the office and vocation, you are of assistance to 
many and glorify Christ ; for we do not preach Aristotle or 
Caesar but Jesus Christ. But when I consider my weakness, 
how I eat and drink and am considered a merry ^ fellow, then 1 
begin to doubt. Alas, if one could only believe ! 

" Heretics believe themselves to be holy. I find not a serai 
of holiness in myself, but only great weakness. As soon as I am 

1 " Colloq.," ed. Rebenstock, 2, p. 146. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 41. 

3 " Comment, in Gal." (1531), ed. Irmischer, 1, p. 102. Cp. above, 

4 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 79. 


assailed by temptation I understand the Spirit, but nevertheless 
the flesh resists. [That is] idolatry against the first table [of the 
law]. Gladly would I be formally just, but I am not conscious 
of being so." 

And Pomeranus replied : " Neither am I conscious of it, Herr 
Doctor." 1 

Before passing on to some of Luther s statements con 
cerning the consonance of his life with faith, we may 
remark that there is no lack of creditable passages in his 
writings on the conforming of ethics to faith. Although here 
our task is not to depict in its entirety the morality of Luther 
and his doctrine, but merely to furnish an historical answer 
to the question whether there existed in him elements which 
rendered his claim to a higher mission incredible, still we 
must not forget his many praiseworthy exhortations to 
virtue, intended, moreover, not merely for others, but also 
for himself. 

That the devil must be resisted and that his tricks and 
temptations lead to what is evil, has been insisted upon by 
few preachers so frequently as by Luther, who in almost 
every address, every chapter of his works, and every letter 
treats of the sinister power of the devil. Another favourite, 
more positive theme of his discourses, whether to the 
members of his household or to the larger circle of the public, 
was the domestic virtues and the cheerful carrying out of the 
duties of one s calling. He was also fond, in the sermons he 
was so indefatigable in preaching, of bringing home to those 
oppressed with the burden of life s troubles "the consolation 
of certain evangelical truths, and of breaking the bread of 
the Word to the little ones and the unlearned. With the 
utmost earnestness he sought to awaken trust in God, 
resignation to His Providence, hope in His Mercy and Bounty 
and the confession of our own weakness. One idea on which 
he was particularly fond of lingering, was, that we must pray 
because we depend entirely upon God, and that we must put 
aside all confidence in ourselves in order that we may be 
filled with His Grace. 

Unfortunately such thoughts too often brought him 
back to his own pet views of man s passivity and 
absence of free will and the all-effecting power of 

1 Ibid., p. 147 f. We shall treat more fully of Luther s " Tempta 
tions against faith and his inner wavering in vol. v., xxxii. 


God "The game is always won," he cries, "and if 
it is won there is no longer any pain or trouble more ; 
there is no need to struggle and fight, for all has already 
been accomplished." 1 " Christ, the Conqueror, has done all, 
so that there is nothing left for us to do, to root out sin, to slay 
the devil or to overcome death ; they all have been trampled 
to the ground. . . . The doing was not, however, our 
work " 2 " The Christian s work is to sleep and do nothing ; 
thus does he sum up in one of his sermons the exhortations 
he had previously given to rest altogether on the merits of 
Christ ; even should a man " fall into sin and be up to the 
neck in it, let him remember that Christ is no taker, but a 
most gracious giver " ; this is " a very sweet and cheering 
doctrine ; others, it is true, teach that you must do so much 
for sin, must live in this or that way, since God must be paid 
to the last farthing before you can appear before Him. Sue! 
people make of God a torturer and taskmaster." 3 
having recommended prayer he inveighs against what he calls 
its abuse : " They say : I will pray until God gives me His 
Grace ; but nothing comes of it, because God says to them : 
You cannot and never will be able to do anything ; but 
shall do everything." "Everything through 
through works, nothing whatever." ^ 

Luther has some remarkable admissions to make, par 
ticularly in his private utterances, concerning the manner in 
which he himself and his chosen circle lived their faith. 

" I cannot express in words what great pains I took in the 
Papacy to be righteous. Now, however, I have cease 
1 " Werke," Erl. cd., 50, p. 153. Exposition of John xvi. 

a " Werke," Weim. ed., 9, p. 407, in a Sermon on Genesis xxviii. 
Joh. Poliander s Collection. . 

* Ibid., 11, P- 197, Sermon in 1523 from Rorer s notes Though in 
the passages just quoted he lays great stress on the fact, that nothing 
is needed g on our part for the obtaining, of forgiveness (not even as 
Catholics taught any co-operation on our part with G od s he Ipmg 
grace), yet he speaks here again of the " emptying of the heart of all 
Affection" for creatures, and of the "works" which Proceed from a 
heart that is purified by faith. " Werke," Weim. ed., 9, p. 409 
you have now the wedding garment, then serve your neighbour 
give yourself up to him entirely, take compassion on him. [For] the 
Christian life consists in faith in God and charity towards our neigh 
bour " Ibid 12, p. 670, in another set of notes of the sermon just 
quoted. " First we become brides [of Christ] by faith, and, then, through 
charity, Christs to every man." Ibid., 11, p. 197. 


to be careful, because I have come to the insight and belief that 
another has become righteous before God in my stead." 1 

" My doctrine stands whatever [my] life may be." 2 

" Let us stick to the true Word that the seat of Moses may be 
ours. Even should our manner of life not be altogether polished 
and perfect, yet God is merciful ; the laity, however, hate us." 3 

" Neither would it be a good thing were we to do all that God 
commands, for in that case He would be cheated of His Godhead, 
and the Our Father, faith, the article of the forgiveness of sins, 
etc., would all go to ruin. God would be made a liar. He would 
no longer be the one and only truth, and every man would not be 
a liar [as Scripture says]. Should any man say : If this is so, 
God will be but little served on earth [I reply] : He is accus 
tomed to that; He wills to be, and is, a God of great mercy." 4 

" I want to hand over a downright sinner to the Judgment- 
Seat of our Lord God ; for though I myself may not have actually 
been guilty of adultery, still that has not been for lack of good 
will." 5 The latter phrase was a saying of the populace, and does 
not in the least mean that he ever really had the intention of 
committing the sin. 

" I confess of myself," he says in a sermon in 1532, " and 
doubtless others must admit the same [of themselves], that I 
lack the diligence and earnestness of which really I ought to have 
much more than formerly ; that I am much more careless than 
I was under the Papacy ; and that now, under the Evangel, 
there is nowhere the same zeal to be found as before." This he 
declares to be due to the devil and to people s carelessness, but 
not to his teaching. 6 

On other occasions he admits of his party as a whole, 
more particularly of its leaders, viz. the theologians and 
Princes, that they fell more or less short of what was required 
for a Christian life ; among them he expressly includes him 
self : " It is certain with regard to ourselves and our Princes 
that we are not clean and holy, and the Princes have vices 
of their own. But Christ loves a frank and downright con 
fession." 7 

Among such " confessions " made by Luther we find 
some concerning prayer. 

Comparing the present with the past he says : " People are 
now so cold and pray so seldom " ; this he seeks to explain by 
urging that formerly people were more " tormented by the 
devil." 8 A better explanation is that which he gave in his 

1 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 42. 

2 Veit Dietrich, in Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 139. 

3 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 179. 

4 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 209. 5 Ibid., p. 238. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 18 2 , p. 353. 

7 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 115. 8 Ibid., p. 95. 


Commentary on Galatians : " For the more confident we are of 
the freedom Christ has won for us, the colder and lazier we are 
in teaching the Word, praying, doing good and enduring contra 
dictions." 1 

We possess some very remarkable and even spirited exhorta 
tions to prayer from Luther s pen ; on occasion he would also 
raise his own voice in prayer to implore God s assistance with 
feeling, fervour and the greatest confidence, particularly when in 
anxiety and trouble about his undertaking. (See vol. iv., xxv. 
3.) He refers frequently to his daily prayer, though he admits 
that the heretics, i.e. the Anabaptists, also were in the habit of 
praying in their own way. His excessive labours arid the 
turmoil of his life s struggle left him, however, little time and 
quiet for prayer, particularly for interior prayer. Besides, he 
considered the canonical hours of the Catholics mere " bawling," 
and the liturgical devices for raising the heart mere imposture. 
During the latter years he spent in the cloister outside cares 
left him no leisure for the prayers which he was, as a religious, 
bound to recite. Finally, towards the end of his life, he often 
enough admits that his prayers w r ere cold. 2 Frequently he w r as 
obliged to stimulate his ardour for prayer as well as work by 
" anger and zeal " ; 3 " for no man can say," as ho puts it, " how 
hard a thing it is to pray from the heart." 4 

Even in the early part of his career he had deliberately and on 
principle excluded one important sort of prayer, viz. prayer for 
help in such interior trials as temptations against the celibacy 
enjoined by the religious state, which he came to persuade himself 
was an impossibility and contrary to the Will of God. Then, if 
ever, did he stand in need of the weapon of prayer, but we read 
nowhere in his letters, written in that gloomy period, of his 
imploring God humbly for light and strength. On the contrary, 
he writes, in 1521 : " What if this prayer is not according to 
God s Will, or if He does not choose to grant it when it is addressed 
to Him ? " 5 He ironically attacks those who rightly said that " we 
must implore in all things the grace of God, that He denies it to 
none," and, that, with God s grace, it was possible to keep the 
vows. He replies to " these simple people and those who care 
nothing for souls " : " Excellent ! Why did you not advise St. 
Peter to ask God that he might not be bound by Herod ? " 
" That," he says, "is to make a mockery of serious matters " 
(" est modus ludendi ") 6 a censure which might very well have 
been flung back at such a teacher of prayer. 

Seventeen years later he gave the following advice on prayer : 
" We must not curse, that is true, but pray we must that God s 

1 " Comment, in Gal.," ed. Irmischor, 2, p. 351. 

2 " Briefe.," ed. De Wette, 5, pp. 515, 560. 
1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 428 f. 

4 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 178. 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 631 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 6, p. 321, " De 
votis monasticis," 1521. 

6 Ibid, 


name be hallowed and honoured, and the Pope s execrated and 
cursed together with his god, the devil ; that God s Kingdom 
come, and that End-Christ s kingdom perish. Such a pater- 
nosteral curse may well be breathed, and so should every 
Christian pray." 1 That the Pope be "cursed, damned, dis 
honoured and destroyed, etc.," such was his " daily, never- 
ending, heartfelt prayer, as it was of all those who believe in 
Christ," so he assures us, " and I feel that my prayer is heard." 2 
His opinion is that it is impossible to pray for anything without 
" cursing," i.e. excluding the opposite. " Someone asked Dr. 
Martin Luther whether he who prayed thus must curse. Yes, 
he replied, for when I pray " Hallowed be Thy Name," I curse 
Erasmus and all heretics who dishonour and blaspheme God. " 3 
His anger against the devil often broke out in his prayers. 
" Though I cannot read or write," he writes to Melanchthon 
from the Coburg, " I can still think, and pray, and rage 
( debacchari ) against the devil." 4 

He ought to " offer incense to God," he complains on one 
occasion in 1538 in his " Table-Talk," but, instead, he brings Him 
" stinking pitch and devil s ordure by his murmuring and im 
patience." "It is thus that I frequently worship my God. . . . 
Had we not the article of the forgiveness of sins, which God has 
firmly promised, our case would indeed be bad." 5 Again and 
again does he cast his anchor on this article when threatened by 
the storms. 

His private, non-polemical religious exercises seem to 
have been exceedingly brief : "I have to do violence to 
myself daily in order to pray, and I am satisfied to repeat, 
when I go to bed, the Ten Commandments, the Our Father 
and then a verse or two ; while thinking these over I fall 
asleep." 6 Unusual, and at the same time peculiar, were the 
prayers which we hear of his offering with the intention of 
doing some wholesome ill to his neighbour, or even of bring 
ing about the latter s death in the interests of the Evangel. 
In a sermon on July 23, 1531, after reprimanding certain 
Wittenberg brewers, who, in the hope of adding to their 
profits, were accustomed to adulterate their beer, he says : 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 254 f. " Rathschlag von der Kirche," 

2 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 3, p. 470 ; Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 128, at the 
close of " Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen," 1531. Cp. Mathesius, 
" Tischreden," p. 423. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 59, p. 22, " Tischreden." 

4 Letter of July 31, 1530, " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 157. 

5 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 49. 

6 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 294. Noted in the winter of 1542-3 
by Heydenreich, 


Unless you mend your ways, we shall pray that your malt 
nay turn to muck and sewage. Don t forget that." 1 

The Christian s life of faith ought not merely to be pene 
trated with the spirit of prayer but, in spite of all crosses 
and the temptations from earthy things, to move along the 
safe path of peace and joy of heart. Luther must have 
found much concerning " peace and joy in the Holy Ghost 
in his favourite Epistle to the Romans. He himself says : 
" A Christian must be a joyful man. . . . Christ says, 
Peace be with you ; let not your heart be troubled : have 
confidence, I have overcome the world. It is the will of 
God that you be joyful." 

Of himself, however, he is forced to add : "I preach and write 
this, but I have not yet acquired the art when tempted the other 
way. This is in order that we may be instructed," so he re 
assures himself. " Were we always at peace, the devil would 
get the better of us. . . . The fact is we are not equal to the holy 
Fathers in the matter of faith. The further we fall short of them 
[this is another of his consolations], the greater is the victory 
Christ will win ; for in the struggle with the devil we are the 
meanest, most stupid of foes, and he has a great advantage over 
us. ... Our Lord has determined to bring about the end [the 
impending end of all] amidst universal foolishness." 2 Thus, 
according to him, the victory of Christ would be exalted all 
the more by the absence of peace and joy amongst His followers. 

What do we see of pious effort on his part, more par 
ticularly in the matter of preparation for the sacraments, 
and repressing of self ? 

The spiritual life was to him a passive compliance with 

1 " Werke," Weim. od., 34, 2, p. 21. Certain prayers spoken by 
Luther at critical moments, which appear in Protestant biographies, 
more particularly the older ones, are purely legendary. So, for instance, 
his solemn prayer at Worms : " O Cod, my God, stand by me against 
all the wit and wisdom of the world," etc. (Uckert, " Luthers Leben," 2, 
Gotha, 1817, p. 0, and also in Walch s edition of Luther s Works, 10, 
p. 1720). From Melanchthon s time (ibid., 21, Nachl. 354) and that of 
such enthusiastic pupils of Luther as Spangenberg, it became the 
custom to extol Luther as a man of prayer. Spangenberg even 
declares that " no one can deny " that Luther during his lifetime 
" checked and prevented God s chastisements, wars and desolation " 
by means of his " Christian prayers, so full of faith." See Preface to 
his " Lutherus Theander," No. 18. A certain Protestant theological 
periodical assured its readers quite recently, that " Luther spent three 
hours of his working day in prayer " ; it is true that people pray even 
in the Roman Church, but amid much " superficiality and desecration." 
2 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 73 f. (Khummer). 



the faith which God Himself was to awaken and preserve 
in the heart. 

For " this is how it takes place/ he says, in a carefully con 
sidered instruction, " God s Word comes to me without any co 
operation on my part. I may, it is true, do this much, go and 
hear it, read it, or preach it, so that it may sink into my heart. 
And this is the real preparation which lies not in man s powers 
and ability, but in the power of God. Hence there is no better 
preparation on our part for all the sacraments than to suffer 
God to work in us. This is a brief account of the preparation." 1 

Yet he himself perceived the peril of teaching that " those 
people were fit to receive the sacrament whose hearts had been 
touched by the Word of God so that they believed, and that 
whoever did not feel himself thus moved should remain away." 
He says : " I remark in many, myself included, how the evil 
spirit, by insisting too much upon the right side, makes people 
lazy and slow to receive the sacrament, and that they refuse to 
come unless they feel assured that their faith has been enkindled. 
This also is dangerous." 

Nevertheless he will have no " self-preparation " ; such 
preparation, " by means of one s own works," appeared to him 
Popish ; it was loathsome to God, and the doctrine of " faith 
alone " should be retained, even though " reason be unable to 
understand it." 2 Hence it is not surprising that he declared it 
to be a dreadful " error and abuse " that we should venture to 
prepare ourselves for the sacrament by our own efforts, as those 
do who strive to make themselves worthy to receive the sacra 
ment by confession and other works." 3 

He storms at those priests who require contrition from the 
sinner who makes his confession ; his opinion is that they are 
mad, and that, instead of the keys, they were better able to wield 
pitchforks. 4 Even "were Christ Himself to come and speak to 
you as He did to Moses and say, What hast thou done ? kill 
Him on the spot." 6 " Contrition only gives rise to despair, and 
insults God more than it appeases Him." 6 Such language may 
be explained by the fact, that, in his theory, contrition is merely 
consternation and terror at God s wrath produced by the accusa 
tions of the law ; the troubled soul ought really to take refuge 
behind the Gospel. How entirely different had been the prepara 
tion recommended by the Church in previous ages for the recep 
tion of the sacraments ! She indeed enjoined contrition, but as 
an interior act issuing in love and leading to the cleansing of the 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., II 2 , p. 245, in the Sermon for Easter Monday, 

J. )!-> 

2 Ibid,, p. 243 f. 3 Ibidff 244. 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 4, p. 658. 

5 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 207. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 630 f. ; " Opp. lat. var.," 1, p. 378 seq. 
in Concl., 3 seq. (of 1518). Passages in which he advocates contrition 
will, however, be quoted below. Cp. vol. i., p. 293. 


soul. According to Luther, however, excessive purity of soul 
was not advisable, and only led to presumption. " The devil 
is a holy fellow," he had said, " and has no need of Christ and 
His Grace " ; " Christ dwells only in sinners." 

On the other hand, in many fine passages, he recommends self- 
denial and mortification as a, check upon concupiscence. He 
even uses the word " mortificare," and insists that, till our last 
breath, we must not cease to dread the "fames " of the flesh and 
dishonourable temptations. He alone walks safely, so he re 
peatedly affirms, who keeps his passions under the dominion of 
the Spirit, suffers injustice, resists the attacks of pride, and at the 
same time holds his body in honour as the chaste temple of God 
by denying it much that its evil lusts desire. 

Luther himself, however, does not seem to have been over 
much given to mortification, whether of the senses or of the inner 
man. He was less notable for his earnest efforts to restrain the 
passions than for that " openness to all the world had to offer," 
and that " readiness to taste to the full the joy of living," which 
his followers admire. Not only was he averse to penitential 
exercises, but he even refused to regulate his diet : "I eat just 
what I like and bear the pains afterwards as best I can." " To 
live by the doctor s rule is to live wretchedly." " I cannot 
comply with the precautions necessary to ensure health ; later on, 
remedies may do what they can." 1 " I don t consult the doctors, 
for I don t mean to embitter the one year of life which they 
allow me, and I prefer to eat and drink in God s name what I 
fancy." 2 With his reference to his " tippling " and the " Good 
drink " we shall deal at greater length below, in section 5. 

The aim of Luther s ethics, as is plain from the above, did 
not rise above the level of mediocrity. His practice, to 
judge from what has been already said, involved the re 
nunciation of any effort after the attainment of eminent 
virtue. It may, however, be questioned whether he was 
really true even to the low standard he set himself. 

There is a certain downward tendency in the system of 
mediocrity which drags one ever lower. Such a system 
carries with it the rejection of all effort to become ever more 
and more pleasing to God, such as religion must necessarily 
foster if it is to realise its vocation, and to which those 
countless souls who were capable of higher things have, 
under the influence of Divine grace, ever owed their progress. 
The indispensable and noblest dowry of true piety is the 
moulding of spiritual heroes, of men capable of overcoming 
the world and all material things. Thousands of less highly 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," pp. 33, 51. 

2 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 435 (" Tischreden "). 


endowed souls, under the impulse from above, hasten to follow 
them, seeking the glory of God, and comfort amidst the 
troubles of life, in religion and the zealous practice of virtue. 
Mighty indeed, when transformed by them into glowing 
deeds, were the watchwords of the Church s Saints : "I 
was born for higher things," " All for the greater glory of 
God," " Conquer thyself," " Suffer and fight with courage 
and confidence." 

On the other hand, the system of mediocrity, organised 
yielding to weakness, and the setting up of the lowest possible 
ethical standard, could not be expected to furnish Luther 
and his disciples with any very high religious motive. Even 
in the ordinary domain of Christian life Luther s too easy 
and over-confident doctrine of the appropriation of the 
satisfaction made by Christ, sounds very different from our 
Saviour s exhortations : " Do penance, for the kingdom of 
heaven is at hand " ; " Whoever will come after Me, let him 
deny himself " ; " Whoever does not take up his cross and 
follow Me cannot be My disciple " ; or from those of St. Paul 
who said of himself, that the world was crucified to him and 
he to the world; or from those of St. Peter: "Seeing 
that Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with 
the like mind." " Do penance and be converted, 
that your sins may be blotted out." What Scripture 
requires of the faithful is not blind, mechanical confidence 
in the merits of Christ as a cloak for our sins, but " fruits 
worthy of penance." In the long list of Luther s works we 
seek in vain for a commentary which brings these solemn 
statements on penance before the mind of the reader with 
the emphasis hitherto habitual. Even were such a com 
mentary forthcoming, the living commentary of his own 
life, which is the seal of the preacher s words, would still 
be wanting. 

On another point, viz. zeal for the souls of others, we see 
no less clearly how far Luther was removed from the ideal. 
True zeal for souls embraces all without exception, more 
particularly those who have gone astray and who must be 
brought to see the light and to be saved. Luther, on the 
other hand, again and again restricts most curiously the 
circle to whom his Evangel is to be preached ; the wide 
outlook of the great preachers of the faith in the Church 
of olden days was not his. 


" Three classes do not belong to the Evangel at all," he had 
said, " and to them we do not preach. . . . Away with the dis 
solute swine." The three classes thus stigmatised were, first the 
" rude hearts," who " will not accept the Evangel nor observe its 
behests " ; secondly, " coarse knaves steeped in great vices," 
who would not allow themselves to be bitten by the Evangel ; 
thirdly, " the worst of all, who, beyond this, even dare to persecute 
the Evangel." The Evangel is, as a matter of fact, intended only 
for "simple souls . . . and to none other have we preached." 1 
This explains why Luther long cherished the idea of forming 
a kind of esoteric Church, or community consisting simply of 
religiously disposed faithful ; unfortunately " he did not find 
such people," 2 for most were content to neglect both Church and 

The older Church had exhorted all who held a cure of souls t< 
be zealous in seeking out such as had become careless or hostile. 
When, however, someone asked Luther, in 1540, how to behave 
towards those who had never been inside a church for about 
twenty years, he replied : "Let them go to the devil, and, when 
they die, pitch them on the manure-heap." 

The zeal for souls displayed by Luther was zeal for his own 
peculiar undertaking, viz. for the Evangel which ho preached. 
Zeal for the general spread of the kingdom of God amongst the 
faithful, and amongst those still sunk in unbelief, was with him 
a very secondary consideration. 

In reality his zeal was almost exclusively directed against the 

The idea of a universal Church, which just then was 
inspiring Catholics to undertake the enormous missionary 
task of converting the newly discovered continents, stood, 
in Luther s case, very much in the background. 

Though, in part, this may be explained by his struggle for 
the introduction of the innovations into those portions of 
Germany nearest to him, yet the real reason was his surrender 
of the old ecclesiastical ideal, his transformation of the 
Church into an invisible kingdom of souls devoted to the 
Evangel, and his destruction of the older conception of 
Christendom with its two hinges, viz. the Papacy established 
for the spiritual and the Empire for the temporal welfare of 
the family of nations. He saw little beyond Saxony, the 
land favoured by the preaching of the new Gospel, and 
Germany, to which he had been sent as a " prophet." The 
Middle Ages, though so poor in means of communication and 
geographical knowledge, compared with that age of dis- 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 11-, p. 245 f. Cp. p. 210, 11. 1, 

2 Above, p. 24 ff. and vol. v., xxix. 8. 


covery, was, thanks to its great Catholic, i.e. world- 
embracing ideas, inspired with an enthusiasm for the king 
dom of God which found no place in the ideals of Lutheran- 
ism. We may compare, for instance, the heroic efforts of 
those earlier days to stem the incursions of the Eastern 
infidel with the opinion expressed by the Wittenberg 
professor on the war against the Crescent, where he declared 
the resistance offered in the name of Christendom to the 
Turks to be " contrary to the will of the Holy Ghost," an 
opinion which he continued to hold, in spite of, or perhaps 
rather because of, its condemnation by the Pope (p. 76 ff., 
and p. 92). We may contrast the eloquent appeals of the 
preachers of the Crusades inspired by the danger which 
threatened from the East for the delivery of the Holy Land 
and the Holy Sepulchre, with Luther s statement quoted 
above, that God troubled as little about the Tomb at 
Jerusalem as He did about the Swiss cows (p. 168). In 
Luther s thoughts the boundaries of the Christian world 
have suddenly become much less extensive than in the 
Middle Ages, whilst ecclesiastical interests, thanks to the 
new territorial rights of the Princes, tend to be limited by 
the frontiers of the petty States. 1 

The stormy nature of the work on which his energies 
were spent could not fail to impress on his personal character 
a stamp of its own. In considering Luther s ethical peculi 
arities, we are not at liberty to pass over in silence the 
feverish unrest so characteristic of him and so unlike the 
calm and joyous determination evinced by true messengers 
sent by God the blind and raging vehemence, which not 
only suited the violence of his natural disposition, but which 
he constantly fostered by his actions. " The Lord is not in 
the storm " ; these words, found in the history of the Prophet 
Elias, do not seem to have been Luther s subject of medita 
tion. He himself, characteristically enough, speaks of his 
life-work as one long " tally-ho." He was never content 
save when worrying others or being worried himself ; he 

1 Cp. G. Kawerau, " Warum fehlte der deutschen evang. Kirche des 
16. u. 17. Jahrh. das voile Verstandnis fur d. Missionsgedanken der 
H. Schrift ? Vortrag," Breslau, 1896. The author says that "none 
of the reformers " found in Holy Scripture the duty of missionary 
effort on the part of Christendom ; an exception must, however, be 
made in the case of Bucer. See N. P(aulus) in the " Hist. Jahrb.," 
18, 1897, p. 199. 


always required some object which he could pull to pieces, 
whereas true men of God are accustomed to proceed quietly, 
according to a fixed plan, and in the light of some great 
supernatural principle. With Luther excitement, con 
fusion and war were a second nature. " The anger and rage 
of my enemies is my joy and delight, in spite of all their 
attempts to take it from me and defraud me of it. ... To 
hell-fire with such flowers and fruits, for that is where they 
belong!" 1 

If, after listening to utterances such as the above, we 
proceed to visit Luther in his domestic circle as we shall 
in the next section we may well be surprised at the totally 
different impression given by the man. In the midst of his 
own people Luther appears in a much more peaceable guise. 

He sought to fulfil his various duties as father of the 
family, towards his children, the servants and the numerous 
guests who lived in or frequented his house, whether relatives 
or others, so far as his occupations permitted. He was 
affable in his intercourse with them, sympathetic, benevolent 
and kind-hearted towards those who required his help, and 
easily satisfied with his material circumstances. All these 
and many other redeeming points in his character will be 
treated of more in detail later. It is true that the ceaseless 
labours to which he gave himself up caused him to overlook 
many abuses at his home which were apparent to others. 

The unrest, noise and bustle which reigned in Luther s house, 
were, at a later date, objected to by many outsiders. George 
Held wrote in 1542 to George of Anhalt, who had though 
taking up his abode with Luther, to dissuade him from doing so : 
" Luther s house is tenanted by a miscellaneous crowd ( miscel 
lanea et promiscua turba ) of students, girls, widows, old women 
and beardless boys, hence great unrest prevails there ; many 
pood men are distressed at this on account of the Reverend 
Father [Luther]. Were all animated by Luther s spirit then 
his house would prove a comfortable and pleasant abode to 
you for a few days, and you would have an opportunity of enjoy 
ing his familiar discourses, but, seeing how his house is at present 
conducted, I would not advise you to take up your quarters 
there." 2 

* "Werke," Weim. ed. f 23, p. 33; Erl. ed., 30, p. 9. "Against 
the King of England," 1527. 

2 Letter of February 23, 1542, in Kolde, Anal. Lutherana, p. 



Many of Luther s friends and acquaintances were also dis 
satisfied with Catherine Bora, because of a certain sway she 
seemed to exercise over Luther, even outside the family circle, 
in matters both great and small. In a passage which was not 
made public until 1907 we find Johann Agricola congratulating 
himself, in 1544, on Luther s favourable disposition towards 
him : Domina Ketha, the arbitress of Heaven and Earth, who 
rules her husband as she pleases, has, for once, put in a good 
word on my behalf. "i The assertion of Caspar Cruciger, a friend 
ol the family, where he speaks of Catherine as the " firebrand in 
the house," and also the report given to the Elector by the 
Chancellor Briick, who accuses her of a domineering spirit, were 
already known before. 2 Luther s own admissions, to which we 
shall return later, plainly show that there was some tiut i in 
these complaints. The latest Protestant to write the iifa of 
Catherine Bora, after pointing out that she was vivacious 
garrulous and full of hatred for her husband s enemies, says : 
The influence of such a temperament, united with such strength 
ot character, could not fail to be evil rather than good, and for 
this both wife and husband suffered. ... We cannot but allow 
that Katey at times exerted a powerful influence over Luther." 
Particularly in moving him in the direction in which he was 
already leaning, "her power over him was great." 3 

Luther s son Hans was long a trial to the family, and his 
father occasionally vents his ire on the youth for his disobedience 
and laziness. He finally sent him to Torgau, where he might be 
more carefully trained and have his behaviour corrected. Hans 
seems to have been spoilt by his mother. Later on she spoke of 
him as untalented, and as a " silly fellow," who would be laughed 
at were he to enter the Chancery of the Elector." 4 A niece, 
Magdalene Kaufmann, whom Luther brought up in his house 
together with two other young relatives, 5 was courted by Veit 
.Dietrich, one of Luther s pupils, who also boarded with him. 
1 his was, however, discountenanced by the master of the house, 
who declared that the wench " was not yet sufficiently educated." 
Luther was annoyed at her want of obedience and ended by 
elJmg her that, should she not prove more tractable, he would 
marry her to a " grimy charcoal-burner." His opposition to the 
match with Dietrich brought about strained relations between 
himself and one who had hitherto been entirely devoted to him 
Dietrich eventually found another partner and was congratulated 
by Luther. Magdalene, with Luther s consent, married, first, 
Ambrose Berndt, an official of the University, and, after his 
death 111 1541, accepted the proposal of Reuchlin, a young 
physician only twenty years of age, whom she married in spite 

1 " Theol. Studien und Kritiken," 1007, p. 246 f. Art. by E. Thiele 
on some Notes of Joh. Agricola s in a Hebrew Bible at WenuVerode 

Corp ref 5, p. 313 seq. The passage will be given later. 
Lr. llroker, Katharma von Bora," Leipzig, 1906 p 282 
* Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 484. 
5 See Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 2. 


of Luther s displeasure. With her restlessness she had sorely 
troubled the peace of the household. 1 

Other complaints were due to the behaviour of Hans Polner, 
the son of Luther s sister, who was studying theology, but who 
nevertheless frequently returned home the worse for drink and 
was given to breaking out into acts of violence. 2 Another nephew, 
Fabian Kaufmann, seems to have been the culprit who caused 
Luther to grumble that someone in his own house had been 
secretly betrothed at the very time when, in his bitter con 
troversy with the lawyers, he was denouncing such " clandestine 
marriages " as invalid. 3 Finally, one of the servant-girls, named 
Rosina, gave great scandal by her conduct, concerning which 
Luther has some strong things to say in his letters. 4 

The quondam Augustinian priory at Wittenberg, which has 
often been praised as the ideal of a Protestant parsonage, fell 
considerably short, in point of fact, even of Luther s own standard. 
There lacked the supervision demanded by the freedom accorded 
to the numerous inmates, whether relatives or boarders, of the 
famous " Black monastery." 

4. The Table-Talk and the First Notes of the same 
At the social gatherings of his friends and pupils, Luther 
was fond of giving himself up unrestrainedly to mirth and 
jollity. His genius, loquacity and good-humour made him a 
" merry boon companion," whose society Avas much appreci 
ated. Often, it is true, he was very quiet and thoughtful. 
His guests little guessed, nay, perhaps he himself was not 
fully aware, how often his cheerfulness and lively sallies 
were due to the desire to repress thereby the sad and 
anxious thoughts which troubled him. 

Liveliness and versatility, imagination and inventiveness, 
a good memory and a facile tongue were some of the gifts 
with which nature had endowed him. To these already 
excellent qualities must be added that depth of feeling 
which frequently finds expression in utterances of sur 
prising beauty interspersed among his more profane sayings. 
Unfortunately, owing to his incessant conflicts and to the 
trivialities to which his pen and tongue were so prone, 
this better side of his character did not emerge as fully as 
it deserved. 

In order to become better acquainted with the conditions 

1 Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 10, p. 286. Kostlin-Kawerau, 
2, p. 485 seq. Rebenstock, 2, p. 20. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 141. 

3 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 569. 

4 On this girl, see below, p. 280 f. 


amid which Luther lived at Wittenberg, we must betake 
ourselves to a . room in the former Augustinian convent, 
w r here we shall find him seated, after the evening meal, 
amidst friends such as Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and 
Jonas, surrounded by eager students for the most part- 
boarders in his house, the former " Black monastery " and 
strangers who had travelled to the little University town 
attracted by the fame of the Evangel. There it is that he 
imparts his views and relates his interior experiences in all 
confidence. He was perfectly aware that what he said was 
being noted down, and sometimes suggested that one 
saying or the other should be carefully committed to 
writing. 1 The older group of friends (1529-1535), to whom 
we owe relations of the Table-Talk, comprised Conrad 
Cordatus, Veit Dietrich, Johaim Schlaginhaufen, Anton 
Lauterbach, Hieronymus Weller and Anton Corvinus ; 
such of these as remained with him from 1536 to 1539 
form the middle group ; the last (1540-1546) was chiefly 
made up of Johann Mathcsius, Caspar Heydenrcich, 
Hieronymus Bcsold, Master Plato, Johann Stoltz and Johann 
Aurifaber. Apart from these there were a few who came 
into close, personal contact with Luther, for instance, 
George Rorer, who assisted him in translating the Bible 
and who is one of Aurifaber s authorities for the Table-Talk. 2 

1 E.g. Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichn.," p. 82. 

2 For biographical data concerning these, see Kroker, " Luthers 
Tischreden in der Mathesischen Sammlung," Einl., p. 8 ff. For Rorer s 
Collections of the Table-talk, etc., cp. G. Koffmane, " Die hds. Uber- 
lieferung von Werken Luthers," 1907, p. xviii. ff., and Kroker, "Rorers 
Handschriftenbande und Luthers Tischreden " (" Archiv. f. Reforma- 
tionsgesch," 5, 1908, p. 337 ff., and 7, 1910, p. 57 ff.). Among the occa 
sional guests was Ch. Gross, Magistrate at Wittenberg, who is mentioned 
in Luther s letters (De Wette, 5, p. 410) in 1541 as " praefectus nosier." 
In his Catholic days the last had served for three years as one of the 
bearers of the Pope s sedan ; a great traveller, he was noted as an 
excellent conversationalist and a thorough man of the world. There 
can be no doubt that he reported to Luther many of the malicious and 
unveracious tales current of Roman morals, which the latter made use 
of in his attacks on Popery. Cp. with regard to him " Colloq.," ed. 
Bindseil, 3, p. 424, and 1, p. 372 (where accounts, probably by him, 
follow), " Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 431 (" Tischreden "). He makes 
unseemly jests on the Latin word for " art," and it appears highly 
probable that he was the " M. Christo," whom we meet with in Kroker, 
p. 175, n. 287, in Luther s Table-Talk of 1540, whose " calida natura " 
is mentioned in excuse of a love affair. This gives an answer to Kroker s 
question : " Who is this Magister Christophorus ? " We learn from 
Bindseil s " Colloquia " that Christopher Gross was anxious to become 
a widower because his wife was a " vcluta." 


In his twelfth Sermon on the " Historien von des 
ehrwiirdigen . . . Manns Gottes Martini Lutheri," etc., 
Mathesius was later on to write that he had enjoyed at his 
table " many good colloquies and chats " and had tasted 
" much excellent stuff in the shape of writings and counsels. 
Luther himself refers incidentally to these social evenings 
in his famous saying, that, while he "drank Wittenberg 
beer with his friends Philip and Amsdorf," God, by his 
means, had weakened the Papacy and brought it nigh t 
destruction. 2 The wine was drunk at least on solemn 
occasions from the famous bowl known as the " Catechis- 
musglas," on which were painted in sections, placed one 
below the other and separated by three ridges, various 
portions of Christian doctrine : at the top the Ten Com 
mandments, in the middle the Creed and Our Father, and 
at the bottom the whole Catechism (probably the super 
scriptions and numbers of the questions in the Catechism). 
We read in the Table-Talk, that, on one occasion, Johann 
Agricola could get only as far as the Ten Commandments 
at one draught, whereas Luther was able to empty the bowl 
right off down to the very dregs., i.e. " Catechism and 

all." 3 

For Luther s sayings given in what follows we have made 
use of the so-called original versions of the Table-Talk recently 
edited by various Protestant scholars, viz. the Diaries c 
Lauterbach and Cordatus, the notes of Schlaginhaufen and 
the Collections made by Mathesius and found m the 
" Aufzeichnuiigen " edited by Locsche and in the 
reden (Mathesius) " published more recently still by Kroker, 
the Leipzig librarian. 4 

i " Historien," Nuremberg, 1566, p. 139. 

"Werke," Weim. ed, 10, 3, p. 18; Erl. cd, 28 p. 260 The 
passage was omitted in the later Luther editions ; cp. ibid., p. 11 

a " Werke," Erl. cd., 58, p. 337. 

* For the full titles of the publications referred to here and elsewhere 
under an abbreviated form as " Tagebuch," " Aufzeichnungcn etc 
see the Bibliography at the commencement of vol. i. G \^f^^^ 
Besides these collections heed must be paid to the old German Ta 
Talk in the Erlangen edition ("Werke," 57-62) and the Latin Table- 
Talk in Bindseil. Only exceptionally do we quote the other editions, such 
as the Latin one by Rebenstock, and the older and more recent German 
editions of Forstemann and Bindseil. Moreover, the ^able-Talk in 
most cases merely serves to prove that this or that idea was ex 
pressed more or less in the language recorded not that Luther 
actually uttered every word of it. The historical Circumstances under 
which the words were uttered are in most cases unknown. Kioker 


^ The objection has frequently been raised that the Table- 
Talk ought not to be made use of as a reliable source of 
information for the delineation of Luther s person. It is, 
however, remarkable that the chapters which are favourable 
to Luther are referred to and exploited in Protestant 
histories, only that which is disagreeable being usually 
excluded as historically inaccurate. The fact is that we 
have merely to comply conscientiously with the rules of 
historical criticism when utilising the information contained 
in the Table-Talk, which, owing to its fulness and variety, 
never fails to rivet attention. These rules suggest that we 
should give the preference to those statements which recur 
frequently under a similar form ; that we should not take 
mere questions, put forward by Luther simply to invite 
discussion and correction, as conveying his real thought ; 
that we consult the original notes, if possible those made at 
the time of the conversation, and that, where there is a 
discrepancy between the accounts (a rare occurrence), we 
should ^prefer those which date from before the time when 
Luther^s pupils arranged and classified his sayings according 
to subjects. The chronological arrangement of Luther s 
sayings has thereby suffered, and here and there the text 
has been altered. For this reason the Latin tradition, 
as we have it, for instance, from Lauterbach s pen, 1 ranks 
before the German version, which is of slightly later 
date. Kroker s new edition, when complete, promises to 
be the best. 

If the rules of historical criticism are followed in this 
and other points there is no reason why the historian 
should not thankfully avail himself of this great fount of 
information, which the first collectors themselves extolled 
as the most valuable authority on the spirit of their master 
" of pious and holy memory," 2 and as likely to prove both 
instructive and edifying to a later generation. The doubt 

publication has been of great service in determining the dates of the 
various collections. As regards the present position of the investigation 
of the sources whence the Table-Talk is derived, see Kostlin-Kawerau, 
4 pp. 479-481, and P. Smith, "Luther s Table-Talk," New York 1907 
which sums up the results arrived at in Germany. 

Cp. " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. xxxxviii. set]., and Kroker, p. 9. 
See the title of Rebenstock s Collection. Rebenstock s assurance 
that, in his Collection he sought nothing but the honour of God and 
Had no .duced any extraneous matter, is reprinted in Bindseil 1 



as to the reliability of the notes has been well answered by 
Kroker " Such distrust, so far as the original documents 
are concerned, can now no longer stand. In his rendering 
of Luther s words Mathesius, and likewise Hcydcnreich, 
Besold and Weller, whose notes his Collection also embodies, 
does not differ substantially from the older table companions, 
Dietrich, Schlaginhaufen and Lauterbach. All these men 
did their utmost to render Luther s sayings faithfully and 
to the best of their knowledge and ability." 1 

The spontaneous character of the Table-Talk gives it 
a peculiar value of its own. " These [conversations] are 
children of the passing moment, reliable witnesses to the 
prevailing mood " (Adolf Hausrath). In intercourse with 
intimates our ideas and feelings express themselves much 
more spontaneously and naturally than where the pen of the 
letter-writer is being guided by reflection, and seeks to make 
a certain impression on the mind of his reader. But if even 
letters arc no faithful index to our thought, how much less 
so are prints, intended for the perusal of thousands and 
even to outlive the writer s age ? On the other hand, it 
true that the deliberation which accompanies the use ol the 
pen imparts, in a certain sense, to the written word a higher 
value than is possessed by the spoken word. We should, 
however, expect to find in a man occupying such a position 
as Luther s a standard sufficiently high to ensure 
presence of deliberation and judgment even in ordinary 

Among the valuable statements made by Luther, which 
on account of their very nature were unsuited for public 
utterance but have been faithfully transmitted in the Table- 
Talk we have, for instance, certain criticisms of friends 
and even patrons in high places. Such reflections could not 
well be uttered save in the privacy of his domestic circle, 
but, for this very reason, they may well be prized by the 
historian. Then we have his candid admissions concerning 
himself, for instance, that his fear lest the Landgrave of Hesse 
should fall away from the cause of the Evangel constituted 
one of the motives which led him to sanction this Prince 
bicramv. Then, again, there is the account of his mental 
trouble, due to certain external events, of the influence of 
biblical passages, old memories, etc. Finally, we have his 
strange counsels concerning resistance to temptation, his 

i Page 64. 


own example held up as a consolation to the faint-hearted, 
to those who wavered in the faith or were inclined to 
despair ; his excuse for a " good drink," his curious recipe 
for counteracting the evil done by witches at home, and 
many other statements of an intimate nature which were 
quite unsuitable for public writings or even for letters. 
All this, and much more, offers the unprejudiced observer 
an opportunity for knowing Luther better. It is true that 
all is not the Word of God ; this Luther himself states in a 
passage which has been wrongly brought forward in excuse 
of the Table-Talk : " I must admit that I say many things 
which are not the Word of God, when speaking outside my 
office of preacher, at home at meals, or elsewhere and at 
other times." 1 

The value of the Table-Talk (always assuming the use 
of the oldest and authentic version) is enhanced if we take 
into consideration the attitude assumed with regard to it by 
learned Protestant writers of earlier times. As an instance of 
a certain type we may take Walch, the scholarly editor of the 
important Jena edition of Luther s works prized even to 
day. 2 He was much annoyed at the publication of the 
Table-Talk, just because it furnished abundant material for 
a delineation of Luther, i.e. for that very reason for which 
it is esteemed by the modern historian. It was unjust, he 
says, and " quite wrong to reveal what ought to have been 
buried in silence, to say nothing of the opportunity thus 
afforded the Papists for abuse and calumny of Luther s 
person and life." At most he continues in a tone in which 
no present-day historian would dare to speak mere 
selections " from the Table-Talk " which could give no 
offence " ought to have been published, but thus to bring 
everything ruthlessly to light was a " perversion of the 
human will." Fortunately, however, it was not possible 
even so to prove much against Luther, for, " though the 
sayings emanated from him originally, 3 still, they remained 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 5 2 , p. 107. 

2 Walch in the edition of the Table-Talk, Luther s Works, in Jena 
as he f di3 UO feftS f LT" 68 fr m Pr testant Sdlolars who *ho^t 

T W H T | P b intS Ut incidentall y (P- 36) that the authority for the 
Table-Talk was not absolutely unquestioned. He was not ac- 
quainted with the original documents, most of which have now been 


mere sayings, spoken without deliberation and written down 
without his knowledge or consent." 1 

When he made this last statement Walch was not aware 
that Luther s utterances were committed to writing in his 
presence and with his full " consent and knowledge " even, 
for instance, when spoken in the garden. " Strange as it 
may appear to us, these men were usually busy recording 
Luther s casual words, just as though they were seated in a 
lecture-hall." 2 Once, in 1540, Catherine Bora said jestingly 
to Luther, when they were at table with several industrious 
students : " Doctor, don t teach them without being paid ; 
they have already written down quite a lot ; Lauterbach, 
however, has written the most and all that is best." To 
which the Doctor replied ; "I have taught and preached 
gratis for thirty years, why then should I now begin to take 
money for it in my old age ? " 3 

The style of the original notes of the Table-Talk in many 
instances shows plainly that they were made while the 
conversation was actually in progress ; even the frequent 
defects in the construction of the original notes, which have 
now been published, prove this. 4 

In 1844 E. Forstemann in his edition of the Table-Talk, 
as against Walch, had expressed himself strongly in favour 
of its correctness ; he even went so far as to remark, with 
all the prejudice of an editor for his own work, that these 
conversations constituted the most important part of 
Luther s spiritual legacy, and that here " the current of his 
thoughts flows even more limpidly than elsewhere." 5 

1 Bindseil also remarked of the " Colloquia " : "We cannot deny 
that it would have been better had much of this not been written." 
" Tischreden," ed. Forstemann and Bindseil, 4, p. xi. Cp. similar 
passages, ibid., p. xxiv., n., and contrast with them Aurifaber s eulogy of 
the Table-Talk which came " from the saintly lips of Luther," p. xxii. 

2 Kroker, p. 2. 3 Ibid., p. 192. 

4 Ibid., p. 3. Moreover, the rough notes drafted at the table were 
afterwards re-copied and amended, and this amended form alone is all 
we have. Cp. Kroker, " Archiv fur Reformatiorisgesch," 7, 1909, p. 
84. In the Weimar ed. a first volume, edited by E. Kroker, of the 
Table-Talk is at present appearing. In it are found the accounts given 
by Veit Dietrich, and another important collection dating from the 
earlier portion, of the third decade of the sixteenth century. Vol. ii., 
commencing with Schlaginhaufen, is already in the hands of the 

5 Vol. i., Preface, p. vii. In the Latin edition of the Table-Talk 
Bindseil, in spite of the scruples alluded to above (n. 1), speaks in 
praise of the Table-Talk, and makes his own the words of J. Miillen- 
siefen (1857). The Table-Talk showed Luther as " the noblest offshoot 


Walter Kohler likewise, speaking of the Table-Talk edited 
by Kroker, considers it a " reliable source." 1 

Of Johann Aurifaber, who was the first to publish the 
Table-Talk in German, at Eislebcn in 1566, and through 
whose edition it was most widely known, F. X. Funk said 
in 1882 : "As his devotion to Luther led him to make 
public all the words and sayings which had come to his 
knowledge, the book, in spite of its defective plan, is im 
portant for the history of the Reformer and his time. Its 
value has always been admitted, though from different 
standpoints ; of this its numerous editions are a proof." 2 
The defect in the arrangement consists in the classifying 
of the sayings handed down according to the different 
subjects, whereby they lose their historical setting. The 
large, new edition of the Table-Talk now planned, will 
necessarily abandon this confusing arrangement. It has 
been proved, however, that Aurifaber had a reliable version 
to work on. " He most probably took for the basis of his 
edition Lauterbach s preliminary work," 3 says Kawerau. 

of his nation " ; it is true the coarseness and plainness of speech are 
inexcusable, but it all contributes towards the " perfect characterisation 
f the great man," for " the wrinkles and furrows are part of his por 
trait " ("Coll.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. xiii.). Luther s opponents were, 
however, of a different opinion even in the early days. G. Stein- 
hausen, in his " Deutsche Kulturgesch.," Leipzig, 1904, p. 513, quotes 
Johann Fickler of Salzburg, who describes the Table-Talk as " full of 
obscene and stinking jests," and compares it to the erotic products 
of the Epicureans. Steinhausen himself is loath to go so far. 

1 " Theol. Jahresbericht," 23, p. 488. 

2 Wetzer and Welte, " KL.," 3 art. " Aurifaber." H. Bohmer like 
wise admits that : " Although their [the principal witnesses : Dietrich, 
Lauterbach, and Mathesius] statements must always be critically 
examined, yet it is established, that they have preserved for us an ex 
ceptional number of data concerning Luther s life, acts, and opinions. 
They supply us with what on the whole is an accurate account, arranged 
in chronological order, which brings the real Luther almost as closely 
before us as his own letters and writings." In his objections against 
the " principal witnesses " he does not pay sufficient attention to the 
existence of the original notes (" Luther im Lichte der neueren For- 
schung," 2 1910, p. 105). Protestant theologians and historians of 
Luther are now in the habit of laying stress on the Table-Talk, no less 
than on Luther s other works, and that even in the case of weighty and 
controverted questions. Examples might be quoted from Loofs, 
Drews, G. Kawerau, J. Kostlin, G. Ward, etc. 

3 " RE. f. prot. Theol.," 3 art. " Aurifaber." In the " Abh. der 
Kgl. Ges. d. Wissensch. Gotting., Phil.-hist. Kl., N.F.," 1, Wilhelm 
Meyer deals with the Collections of Lauterbach and Aurifaber. In the 
same way Kawerau points out in his " Studien und Kritiken," 81, 
1908, p. 338, "the importance of these notes for Luther s biography 
and for a knowledge of his home life." Cp. Kawerau, ibid., p. 354, on 



This collection of Lauterbach s has been incorporated, for 
the most part, in the Halle MS. edited by Bindseil under 
the title " Colloquia" etc. 1 In addition to this, Aurifaber 
made use of the notes by Cordatus, Schlaginhaufen, Veit 
Dietrich, Mathesius and others. Kawerau draws attention 
to the fact, that the coarseness to be found in the German 
edition is not solely due to the compiler, as some of Luther s 
apologists had urged, but really belongs to the original 
texts. Gross sayings of the sort not only gave no offence 
to Aurifaber, but he delights to repeat them at great length. 
Yet in certain instances he appears to have watered down 
and modified his text, as one investigator has proved by a 
comparison with the notes of Cordatus. 2 

The Pith of the New Religion. Doubts on Faith. 
We shall begin by giving some practical theological 
examples out of the Table-Talk which may serve further to 
elucidate certain of Luther s ideas already referred to, e.g. 
those concerning temptations and their remedy, particularly 
that most serious temptation of all, viz. regarding the 1 
saving power of fiducial faith, which, so Luther thinks, 
comes through our " weakness." To this, the tender spot 
and at the same time cardinal point of his teaching and 
practical morality, Luther returns again and again, with a 
frankness for which indeed we may be grateful. Owing to 
the nature of the conversations and to his habitual loquacity 
it may happen that some of the trains of thought and modes 
of expression resemble those already quoted elsewhere ; 
this, however, is no reason for neglecting them, for they 
testify anew to the ideas of which his mind was full, and also 
to the state of habitual depression in which he lived. 

the old re-arrangement according to the subject-matter. The " au 
thenticity " of the sayings which occur in these revised editions can be 
proved in many instances from the original writings and from the light 
thrown on them by parallel passages now in print, but the dates 
are another matter." Where, in the present work, any date is taken from 
the revised editions, it rests solely on the authority of the latter. Cp. 
Kroker s remarks on the Table-Talk of 1540 in the " Archiv f. Reforma- 

tionsgesch.," 1908, above, p. 218, n. 2. On Aurifaber s re-arrangement 
of the Table-" 11 " 11 """ rs.;^*, " T?^n 
1912, p. 113. 

of the Table-Talk, see Cristiani, " Revue de questions hhtoriques," 91, 

Lauterbach, Luther s pupil, who was also the author of the Diary, 
revised his Collection and sought to improve upon the arrangement ; 
a similar, later revision of this formed the basis of the " Colloqma ot 

Rebenstock. Kawerau, ibid. 

2 Cp. below, p. 231, n. 2. 


" Early this morning the devil held a disputation with me on 
Zwingli, and I learned that a full head is better able to wrangle 
with the devil than an empty one. . . . Hence," he says, " eat 
and drink and live well, for bodies tempted in this way must have 
plenty of food and drink ; but lewdsters, and those tempted 
by sensual passion, ought to fast." 1 

" For those who are tempted fasting is a hundred times worse 
than eating and drinking." 2 

" When a man is tempted, or is in the company of those who 
are tempted, let him put to death Moses [i.e. the Law] and cast 
stones at him ; but, when he recovers, the Law must be preached 
to him also ; a man who is troubled must not have new trouble 
heaped upon him." 3 

" In the monastery the words just and justice fell like a 
thunderbolt upon my conscience. I was terrified when I heard 
it said : He is just, and He will punish. " 4 [But now I know] : 
" Our justice is a relative justice [a foreign righteousness]. 
Though I am not good, yet Christ is good." 5 " Hence I say to 
the devil : I, indeed, am a sinner, but Christ is righteous." 6 

Many admissions reveal his altered feelings, the inconstancy 
and sudden changes to which he was so prone. 

" I do not always take pleasure in the Word. Were I always 
so disposed towards the Word of God as I was formerly, then 
I should indeed be happy. Even dear St. Paul had to complain 
in this regard, for he bewails another law which wars in his 
members. But is the Word to be considered false because it 
does not happen to suit me ? " 7 

" Unless we wrap ourselves round with this God, Who has 
become both Man and Word, Satan will surely devour us." 
" Hence the aim of the Prophets and the Apostles, viz. to make 
us hold fast to the Word." " It costs God Almighty much to 
manifest His power and mercy even to a few. He must slay 
many kings before a few men learn to fear Him, and He must 
save many a rascal and many a prostitute before even a handful 
of sinners learn to believe in Him." 8 

" So soon as I say : Yes, indeed, I am a poor sinner, Christ 
replies, But I died for you, I baptised you and I teach you 
daily. . . . Ever bear this in mind, that it is riot Christ W T ho 
affrights you, but Satan ; believe this as though God Himself 
were speaking." 9 

" Is it not a curse that we should magnify our sins so greatlv ? 
Why do we not exalt our baptism just as we exalt our inherit 
ance ? A princely baby remains a prince even though he should 
s- - in his cradle. A child does not cease being heir to his 
father s property for having soiled his father s habiliments. If 
only we could see our way to make much of our inheritance and 

1 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 23. 

2 Ibid., p. 11. 3 Ibid., p. 48, 4 Ibid., p. 108. 
5 Ibid., p. 115. 6 Ibid., p. 26. Ibid., p. 79. 

8 Ibid., p. 88 (Khummer). 

9 Cordatus. " Tacrphnoli " n 121 

5 Ibid., p. 115. 6 Ibid., p. 2 

8 Ibid., p. 88 (Khummer). 

9 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 131. 


patrimony before God ! . . . Yet children call God quite simply 
their Father." 1 

" You are not the only man to be tempted ; I also am tempted 
and have bigger sins piled on my conscience than you and your 
fathers. I would rather I had been a procurer or highwayman 
than that I should have offered up Christ in the Mass for so 
long a time." 2 

The last words may serve as an introduction to a remark 
able series of statements concerning the religious practices 
of the ancient Church. As these words show, he does not 
shrink from dishonouring by the most unworthy comparisons 
even those acts and doctrines which, by reason of their 
religious value, were dear to the whole Church of antiquity 
and had been regarded by some of the purest and most 
exalted souls as their only consolation in this life. 

Elsewhere he says of the sacrifice of the Mass : " The blind 
priestlings run to the altar like pigs to the trough " ; this, " the 
shame of our scarlet woman of Babylon, must be exposed." 
" I maintain that all public houses of ill-fame, strictly forbidden 
by God though they be, yea, manslaughter, thieving, murder 
and adultery, are not so wicked and pernicious as this abomina 
tion of the Popish Mass." 3 

He says of the Catholic preacher : " Where the undefiled 
Evangel is not preached, the whoremonger is far less a sinner 
than the preacher, and the brothel less wicked than the church ; 
that the procurer should daily make prostitutes of virgins, honest 
wives and cloistered nuns, is indeed frightful to hear of; still, his 
case is not so bad as that of the Popish preacher." 4 

The Church s exhortation to make use of fasting as a remedy 
in the struggle against sin in which counsel she had the support 
both of Holy Scripture and of immemorial experience was thus 
described by Luther : " No eating or drinking, gluttony or 
drunkenness can be so bad as fasting ; indeed, it would be better 
to swill day and night rather than to fast for such a purpose," so 
" ludicrous and shameful in God s sight " was such fasting. 5 

" Confession " (as made by Catholics), Luther asserted in 
1538, "is less to be condoned than any infamy." "The devil 
assails Christians with pressing temptations, most of all on 
account of their confessions." 6 

The life of the Saints in the Catholic Church, he says elsewhere, 
consisted in " their having prayed much, fasted, laboured, taken 

1 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 115. 

2 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 95. 

3 " Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 773 f. Sermon in 1524. 

4 "Werke," Erl. ed., 7, p. 213. Church-Postils. 

5 Ibid., 13 2 , p. 108, Church-Postils. 

6 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 35. 


the discipline, slept on hard pallets and worn poor clothing, a 
kind of holiness which any dog or pig might practise any day." 1 
He voices his abhorrence of the monastic life in figures such as 
the following : " Discalced Friars are lice placed by the devil on 
God Almighty s fur coat, and Friars-preacher are the fleas of His 
shirt." " I believe the Franciscans to be possessed of the devil, 
body and soul," 2 and, reverting once again to his favourite image, 
he adds elsewhere : " Neither the dens of evil women nor any 
secret sins are so pernicious as those rules and vows which the 
devil himself has invented." 3 

We have to proceed to the uninviting task of collecting 
other sayings of Luther s, particularly from the Table-Talk, 
which are characteristic of his more than plain manner of 
speaking, and to pass in review the somewhat peculiar views 
held by him on matters sexual. As it is to be feared that 
the delicacy of some of our readers will be offended, we may 
point out. that those who wish are at liberty to skip the 
pages which follow and to continue from Section 7 of the 
present chapter which forms the natural sequence of what 
has gone before. Certainly no one would have had just 
cause for complaint had one of the guests at Luther s table 
chosen to take leave when the conversation began to turn 
on matters distasteful to him. The historian, however, is 
obliged to remain. True to his task he may not close his 
ears to what is said, however unpleasant the task of listener. 
He must bear in mind that Cordatus, one of Luther s guests, 
in the Diary he wrote praises Luther s Table-Talk as " more 
precious than the oracles of Apollo." This praise Cordatus 
bestows not only on the "serious theological discourses," 
but also expressly on those sayings which were apparently 
merely frivolous. 4 Another pupil, Mathesius, who was also 
frequently present, assures us he never heard an improper 
word from Luther s lips. 5 This he writes in spite of the 
fact, that one of the first anecdotes he relates, embellished 
with a Latin verse from Philo, contains an unseemly jest, 6 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 304, " Tischreden." 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," pp. 136, 135. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 10 2 , p. 465. Church-Postils. 

* Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 1 : " Qui me invito hec describit, 
tantum tali animo describat, quali ego, simplici et candido, et laudet verba 
Lutheri magis quam Apollinis tniracula [pracula]" 

5 " Historien von des ehrwiirdigen in Gott seligen the wren Manns 
Gottes Doctoris Martini Lutheri Leben," etc., Nuremberg, 1566,p. 146. 

6 Ibid., p. 147 : " Arvinam quaerunt multi in podice porci " (Philo), 
applied by Luther to the marriage of a " young fellow with an old hag 


and that he himself immediately after tells how Luther on 
one occasion told the people from the pulpit that : " Ein 
weiter Leib und zeitiger Mist ist gut zu scheiden " ; he 
even mentions that Luther was carried away to express 
himself yet more plainly concerning the ventral functions, 
till he suddenly reined in and corrected himself. The truth 
is that Mathesius was an infatuated admirer of Luther s. 

As a matter of fact, terms descriptive of the lower functions 
of the body again and again serve Luther not only to 
express his anger and contempt, but as comparisons illustra 
tive of his ideas, whether on indifferent matters or on the 
highest and most sacred topics. It is true that what he said 
was improper rather than obscene, coarse rather than 
lascivious. Nor, owing to the rough and uncouth character 
of the age and the plainness of speech then habitual, were 
his expressions, taken as a whole, so offensive to his eon- 
temporaries as to us. Yet, that Luther should have culti 
vated this particular sort of language so as to outstrip in 
it all his literary contemporaries, scarcely redounds to his 
credit, His readers and hearers of that day frequently 
expressed their disgust, and at times his language was so 
strong that even Catherine Bora was forced to cry halt. 

As a matter of course the devil came in for the largest 
share of this kind of vituperation, more particularly that 
devil who was filling Luther with anxiety and trouble of 
mind. The Pope and his Catholic opponents came a good 
second. Luther was, however, fond of spicing in the same 
way even his utterances on purely worldly matters. 

" When we perceive the devil tempting us," he says, " we can 
easily overcome him by putting his pride to shame and saying to 
him : Leek mieh im Arss, or Scheiss in die Brucli und liengs 
an den Halss. " l This counsel he actually put in practice : 
" On May 7, 1532, the devil was tormenting me in the afternoon, 
and thoughts troubled me, such as that a thunderbolt might 
kill me, so I replied to him : Leek mich im Arss, I am going 
to sleep, not to hold a disputation. " 2 When the devil would 
not cease urging his sins against him lie had a drastic method of 
effectually disposing of his importunity. 3 

He relates in the Table-Talk, in 1536, the " artifice " by which 
the parish-priest of Wittenberg, his friend Johann Bugenhagen 
(Pomeranus), had put the devil to flight. It was a question of 

1 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 27. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 82. 

3 Ibid., p. 89. 


the milk which the devil had bewitched by means of sorceresses 
or witches. Luther says : " Dr. Poinmer s plan was the best, 
viz. to plague them [the witches] with filth and stir it into the 
milk so that everything stank. For when his [Pommer s] cows 
also lost their milk, he promptly took a vessel filled with milk, 
relieved himself in it, poured out the contents and said : There, 
devil, eat that. After that he was no longer deprived of the 
milk." 1 Before this his wife and the maids had worried them 
selves to death trying " to get the butter to come " as we read 
in another account of this occurrence in a version of the Table- 
Talk which is more accurately dated but all to no purpose. 
" Then Pommer came up, mocked at the devil and eased himself 
in the churn. Thereupon Satan ceased his tricks, for he is proud 
and cannot bear to be laughed at." 2 

Less formal, according to him, was the action of another 
individual, who had put Satan to flight by a " crepitus ventris." 3 

Still, all temptations of the devil are profitable to us, so Luther 
says, for, if we were always at peace, the devil himself "would treat 
us ignominiously," 4 for he is full of nothing but deception and 
filthiness. Luther, like many of his contemporaries and later 
writers, was well acquainted with the devil s private life, and 
convinced that " devil s prostitutes : cum quibus Sathan coiret " 
actually existed. 5 

As the filthy details of the expulsion of the devil from the 
chum are omitted in Lauterbach s Diary, certain defenders of 
Luther think they are warranted in drawing from this particular 
passage the conclusion that the Table-Talk had been polluted 
by " unseemly " additions in Aurifaber s and other later versions 
(above, p. 224 f.) which " must not be laid to the charge of the 
Reformer." " Not Luther in his domestic circle, but the com 
pilers and collectors of the much-discussed Table-Talk, Aurifaber 
in particular, were rude, obscene and vulgar." The publication 
of the original documents, for instance, by Kroker in 1903, has, 
however, shown the first version of the Table-Talk to be even 
more intolerably coarse, and confirmed the substantial accuracy 
of the text of the older German Table-Talk at present under dis 
cussion. 6 Preger, the editor of Schlaginhaufen s notes, rightly 
repudiated such evasions even in 1888, together with the alleged 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 60, p. 78. In the first edition of the German 
Table-Talk, 1566, p. 307. Cp. against O. Waltz, on the authenticity 
of the account, N. Paulus, " Hexenwahii und Hexenprozess vornehm- 
lich im 16. Jahrhundert," 1910, p. 39. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 380, said between October 28 and 
December 12, 1536. Cp. Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 121 : " The 
village pastor and the schoolmaster had their own way of dealing [with 
the witches] and plagued them greatly. But D. Pommer s way is the 
best of all, viz. to plague them with filth and stir it well up and so make 
all their things to stink." 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 56. 

4 Ibid., p. 74 (Khummer). 6 Ibid., p. 111. 

6 Cp. N. Paulus in his art. on Kroker s edition of the " Tischreden 
in der Mathesischen Sammlung " (" Hist, polit. Blatter," 133, 1904, 
pp. 199 ff., 208 f.). 


own I"* ve 6 S^- ok ako pointed out that even the 
Zt Writers of the Table-Talk made use of certain signs in 
their notes (e.g. x or 1 ) in lieu of certain words employed by 
Luther which they felt scrupulous about writing. 

" The entire lack of restraint with which Luther exprt 
himseK I : Protestant writer says of the Tables-Talk ^ted by 
Kroker "makes a remarkable impression on the reader of to 
day, more particularly when we consider that hi *te and 
children were among the audience. . . . In the Table ^ ^ 
meet with numerous statements, some of them l^* 6 "* 

which are really coarse Although we can explain Lu the s 

Tove of obscenities, still, this does not hind er us from deplor ng 
his use of such and placing it to his discredit, It is true, the 
same writer proceeds, " that Luther is never lascivious < >re^y 
frivolous." ^ As regards the latter assertion the texts to be 
adduced will afford a better opportunity of J^ging. That at 
any rate in the instances already mentioned Luther ( id not 
intentionally wish to excite his hearers passions is clear and t 
fact has been admitted even by Catholic polemics who have 
really read his writings and Table-Talk. 4 

An alarming number of dirty expressions concerning the Pope 
and Catholicism occur in the Table-Talk. 

i W. Preger, " Tischredeii . . . nach den Aufzeichmingen von 
J. Schlaginhaufen," p. iv. Of9 Kroker 

CD. N. Paulus, ibid., p. 40; Kroker, pp. 156 ]8 , - >2. Kro 

which the Catholics gave themselves 


actowSed that it was In audax facing " to w^e down aU he 
heard, but his opinion was that " pudorem vincebat utilitas L other 
who was watching his work, never gave him to understand by sc 
as one word that it did not meet with his approval. 

3 Bei i. zur Miinchener Allg. Ztag.," 1004 No. 2G 

4 O Evers ("Martin Luther," 6, p. 701 , for instance, says 

In hi SbS-Talk we find not merely plain-spoken, ***$** 
discourses, and much which to us sounds obscene. S till J h, s adm n rs 
may possibly be right when they absolve him of indecency o 
intention to arouse sensual passion." 


Were the Pope to cite me to appear before him," Luther 
be h ^l? * g0> I Sh uld S ~ ~ u P n the summons 

to me ; but were J summoned by a Counci1 

f the Council : " l should like 

th f to see a Coun cil deal with the matter, for 

they would give one another a fine pummelling, and us a splendid 
reason for writing against them." 2 

w^^^ 116 rigin f the P P e>s authority ? " I see plainly 
whence the Pope came ; he is the vomit of the lazy, idle Lords 

nestifoT f; ThCn the P pe burst u P n the w rld with his 

pestilential traditions and bound men by his carnal ordinances, 
his rules and Masses, to his filthy, rotten law " 

thn^ 111 - 18 ! 61 ^ 6 ^ 68810118 CCUr at times in conjunction with 
thoughts intended to be sublime. I hold that God has just as 

ere* ti m b ^ mg thlngS back t0 nothingness as He has in 
crea ing them. This he [Luther] said, referring to human excre 
ment. He also said: I am astounded that the dung-hill of the 
world has not reached the very sky."*-" He took his baby into 
his arms and perceived that it was soiling its diaper. His 
remark was that the small folk by messing themselves and 
by their howling and screaming earn their food and drink just 

rn e / aVCn y Ur S d w rks." He even 

custom 7 name f G d int con i unc tion with one such 

1 6XreSS - "* t0 

ndT, TT f 1 6X P f reSS r- "* t0 have laid down 

Arss fah? l m ^ t6r Ab f der fmm Gott hat mich in sen 

Arss lanren lassen und meyn Meystern ist nichts worden." 

There are many students here, but I do not believe there is 
e who would allow himself to be anointed [by the Papists], or 

S a S TT^ h - for ^ Pope to mi {i with ^ filth tal 

perhaps, Mathesius or Master Plato." 8 

In his strange explanation of how far God is or is not the 
author of evil, he says : Semei wished to curse and God merely 
directed his curse against David (2 Kings xvi. 10). " God says : 
Curse , hmi and no one else. Just as if a man wishes to relieve 
tab e IP T f^ 611 ^ 111111 but should he ^sh to do so on the 
to the ^ ^ teU llim tO betake himself 

thPoln 8 - 11 ^ SUrprisin g that in Luther s conversations on non- 
theological, i.e. on secular subjects, similar and even more 
offensive expressions occur. 

1 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen " (Loesche), p. 218 

Lauterbacli, " Tagebuch," p. 83 

Ibid., p. 61, and " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p 29G 

Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 123. 

Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen " p 7 

Ibid., p 65. 

Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 106. 
3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p 154 
9 Ibid.., p. 203. ,o Ibidff p> 88 


He thinks that wo " feed on the bowels of the peasants/ for 
they " expel the stones " which produce the trees which produce 
the fruit on which we feed. 1 He has a joke at the expense of an 
unlearned man who had mistaken the Latin equivalent ol the 
German word " Kunst " for a common German term: Wei 
man eynem auff die Kunst kiisset so bescheist er sich. 

Speaking of women who had the impertinence to wish for 6 
share in the government, he says : " The Furtzlecher want to 
rule and we suffer for it ; they really should be making cheese 
and milking the cows." 3 Elsewhere he says to the preachers; 
" We never seek to please anybody nor to make our mouth 
* Arschloch of another." 4 

"Those who now grudge the preachers of the Word 
bread will persecute us until we end by disgracing ourselves. 
Then adordbunt nostra stercora. By a natural transition 

of ideas he goes on to say : " They will be glad to get rid of us 
and we shall be glad to be out of them. We are as ready to part 
as ein reiffer Dreck und ein weit Arssloch. " 5 -" Rather than let 
them have such a work [a conciliatory writing requested by t 
inhabitants of Augsburg] I would in einen Beeher scheissen 
und bissen, that they might have whereof to eat and drink. 

" The lawyers scream [when we appropriate Church property] : 
Sunt bona ecclesiae ! . . . Yes [I say], but where are we to 
get our bread ? We leave you to see to that, they say. Yes, 
the devil may thank them for that. We theologians have no 
worse enemies than the lawyers. ... We here condemn all 
jurists, even the pious ones, for they do not know what ecclesia 
means . . If a jurist wishes to dispute with you about this, 
say to him : Listen, my good fellow, on this subject no^ lawyer 

should speak till he hears a sow s , then he must say : ^ Inank 

you, Granny dear, it is long since I listened to a sermon. 

After the above there is no need of giving further instances 
of the kind of language with which opponents within his 
fold had to put up from Luther. It will suffice to mention 
the poem " De merda" with which he retaliated on the 

Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 417. 

" Colloq.," ed. Bindsoil, J, p. 428. 

Schlagmhaufen, " Aufzeichmmgert," p. 99. 

Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 219. 

Cordatus, "Tagebuch," p. 188. For the equivalent passages in 
Latin see " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 306, and " Colloq.," ed. Rebeii- 
stock (Francof., 1571), 1, p. 149 , where the famous " adorabunt nostra 
stercora" occurs. Cp. the passages in the old German Table- lalk, 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 61. p. 397, which agrees substantially with the above : 
" They will oppress us until we forget ourselves, and then they will 
worship our filth and regard it as balsam," and in Mathesius, 
reden," p. 303 : " I am ripe dung," etc. 

6 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 81. 

7 Ibid p 340. A revolting collection of low abuse ot the lawyer 
might be made from the Table-Talk, "Werke," Erl. ed., 60, pp. 229, 233, 
235, 244, 246 f. 


satirist Lcmnius for some filthy verses, 1 and the following 
prediction to his Zwickau opponents : " When trouble 
befalls them, whenever it may be, they will in die Hoscn 
scheissen und ein solchen Gestanck anrichten that nobody 
will be able to tarry in their neighbourhood." 2 

It is also difficult for us to tarry any longer over these 
texts, especially as in what follows we shall meet with 
others of a similar character. 3 

Not to do injustice to the general character of Luther s 
Table-Talk, we must again lay stress on the fact, that very 
many of his evening conversations are of irreproachable 
propriety. We may peruse many pages of the notes without 
meeting anything in the least offensive, but much that is 
both fine and attractive. Events of the day, history, nature, 
politics or the Bible, form in turn the subject-matter of the 
Table-Talk, and much of what was said was true, witty and 
not seldom quite edifying. 

Still, the fact remains that filthy talking and vulgarity 
came so natural to Luther as to constitute a questionable 
side to his character. 

Even when writing seriously, and in works intended for 
the general public, he seems unable to bridle his pen. 

In the book " Wider clas Bapstum zu Rom voin Teuffel gestifft," 
he introduces, for instance, the following dialogue : " We have 
enacted in our Decretals [say the Papists] that only the Pope 
shall summon Councils and appoint to benefices. [Luther] : My 
friend, is that really true ? Who commanded you to decree 
this ? [Answer] : Be silent, you heretic, what proceeds from our 
mouth must be hearkened to. [Luther] : So you say ; but which 
mouth do you mean ? Da die Forze ausfahren ? To such an 
opinion you are welcome. Or that into which good Corso [wine] 
is poured ? Da scheiss ein Hund ein ! [Answer] : Out upon 
you, you shameless Luther, is it thus you talk to the Pope ? 
[Luther] : Out upon you rather, you rude asses and blasphemous 
desperadoes, to address the Emperor and the Empire in such a 
manner ! How can you venture to insult and slight four such 
great Councils and the four greatest Christian Emperors umb 
euer Forze und Drecketal [sic] willen ? What reason have 

{ * Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 139, with the disgusting verses : 
T entre urges merdam vellesque cacare libenter \ ingentem. Fads at, 
merdipoeta, nihil." Within ten lines the word " merda " occurs twelve 
times. Cp. Kostlm-Kawerau, 2, p. 673, N. 422. 

2 Schlaginhaufeii, " Aufzeichmmgeii," p. 48. 

3 See the detailed examples given in vol. iv., xxv. 3. 


you to think yourselves anything but big, rude, senseless fools 
and donkeys ? MI , _ 

Before this he says in the same work, in personal abuse ot 1 opo 
Paul III. : " Dear donkey, don t lick ! Oh, dear little Pope-ass, 
were you to fall and some filth escape you, how all the wor 
would mock at you and say : Lo, how the Pope-ass has disgraced 
itself ! ... Oh, fiendish Father, do not be unmindful < >1 yoi 
great danger." 2 

" Dr. Luther is a rough sort of fellow ; were he to hear that, 
he would rush in booted and spurred like a countryman and 
say The Pope had been thrust into the Church by all the devils 
from hell " 3 "As much as the sun is greater than the moon, 
so does the Pope excel the Emperor. . . . Hearken, reader ; i 
you forget yourself and your nether garments have to be fumi 
gated with incense and juniper, from such a reeking sin the 
Most Holy Father would never absolve you." 4 

" Whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. 
Whatsoever means [according to the Catholics] all that tlier 
is on earth, churches, bishops, emperors, kings and possibly 
alle Forze aller Esel und sein eigen Forze aucli. Ah, c 
brother in Christ, put it clown to my credit when I speak here 
and elsewhere so rudely of the cursed, noxious, ungainly monster 
at Rome. Whoever knows my mind must admit that 1 am tar, 
far too lenient, and that no words or thoughts of mine could 
repay his shameful and desperate abuse of the Word and Name 
of Christ, our beloved Lord and Saviour." 5 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 149. 

2 Ibid., p. 148. Cp. above, p. 151, n. 3. Ibid p. 1< . 1. 

* Ibid , P. 17. } f. Jonas, in his Latin edition of the work Wider 
das Bapstum," rendered the passage : " Ne ,sme ullo laxativo 
pillulis ventri? onere honor es papam," etc. 

5 Ibid p 201. Cp. Luther s insolent language towards t 
Pope in "his other writings and letters; for instance, when lie 
declares that the Princes who were not on his own side were 
Papst in den Arseh gebacken " (" Werke," Erl. ed., 45, p 398) ; or : 

" I s on the dispensation of the legate and his master (^ riet 

wechsel," 8, p. 53 ; cp. p. 113) ; or " that Pope and Legate irn Ars< 
wollten lecken " (" Brief wechsel," 8, p. 233). As early aa 1518, in a 
Lenten sermon, he shows his predisposition to crudity : 
our good works into the light, so soil der Teufel den Arsch daraii 
wischen. as indeed he does" ("Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 2/b) Lp. 
also his discourse in 1515 against the " Little Saints (vol. i., p. OJ 1.). 
In the saying just referred to he is playing on a coarse proverb. In hi 
collection of proverbs (not intended for publication, but edited by 
Thiele) he has accumulated quite a number of filthy sayings those con 
taining the word " Dreck " being unpleasantly numerous. Many ot the 
obscenities occurring in his sermons and writings were suggestei 
proverbs which themselves reek too much of the stable, but which li 
sometimes still further embellishes. The manner in which he uses 
gross word " Farzen " with reference to the Pope or the monks can b< 
seen in " Werke," Weim. ed., 8, p. 715, and Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 74. In one 
of his attacks on the Jews he says : " Kiss the pig on its Pacem and 
Pirzl, " etc. ("Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 211) ; and again: 
here for a kiss ! The devil has in die Hosen geschmissen und 


" I must cease," Luther says elsewhere in his " Wider das 
tfapstum, after speaking of a Decretal, " I cannot bear to 
wallow any longer in this blasphemous, hellish, devils filth and 
o 2? 4 someone else read it. Whoever wants to listen to 
God s Word let him read Holy Writ ; whoever prefers to listen 

Drecket c and 

We must here consider more closely the statement, already 
alluded to, made by some of Luther s apologists. To remove 
the unfavourable impression left on the mind of present-day 
readers by his unbridled language an attempt has been 
made to represent it as having been quite the usual thing i n 
Luther s day. 

^ It is true that, saving some expressions peculiar to the 
Saxon peasant, such obscenity is to be met with among the 
nee-Humanist writers of that age, both in Germany and 
abroad. Even Catholic preachers in Germany, following 
the manners of the time, show but scant consideration for 
the delicacy of their hearers when speaking of sexual matters 
T of the inferior functions of the human body. It is quite 
impossible to set up a definite standard of what is becomino- 
which shall apply equally to every age and everv state of 
civilisation. But if Luther s defenders desire to exonerate 
him by comparing him with others, it is clear that they are 
not justified in adducing examples taken from burlesque 
popular writers, light literature, or even from certain 
writings of the Humanists. The filth contained in these 
works had been denounced by many a better author even 
in that age. Luther, as already explained (vol. ii., p. 150 f.) 
must not be judged by a profane standard, but by that which 
befits a writer on religion and the spiritual life, a reformer 
and founder of a new religion. The fact remains that it is 
impossible to instance any popular religious writer who 
ever went so far as, or even approached, Luther in his 
lack of restraint in this particular. Luther, in the matter 
licentiousness of language, stands out as a giant apart. 
den Bauch abermal geleeret. This is indeed a holy thing for the Jews 
and all would-be Jews to kiss, eat, drink, and worship, while the devil 
m his turn must eat and drmk what his disciples speien oben und 
unten auswerfen konnen. Host and guest live indeed met have 
cooked and served the meat . . . The devil is feasting with hTs EngSsh 
[angelic ?] snout and gobbles up greedily whatever < der Juden unteres 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 203. 


The passages to be quoted later on marriage and the sexual 
question will make this still more apparent. 

His own contemporaries declared aloud that he stood 
quite alone in the matter of coarseness and in his incessant 
use of vituperation ; Catholics, such as Dungersheim, and 
opponents of the Catholic Church like Bullinger, testify 
alike in the strongest terms to the impression made upon 
them. Some of their numerous statements will be quoted 
below. We may, however, remark that the severest 
strictures of all came from Sir Thomas More, who, for all 
his kindliness of disposition, condemned most indignantly 
the filthy language of the assailant of King Henry VIII. of 
England! The untranslatable passage may be read in its 
Latin original in the note below. 1 Caspar Schatzgcyer, 
another learned opponent of Luther s, and likewise a man 
of mild temper, also rebuked Luther with great vehemence 
for the ignoble and coarse tone he was wont to employ 
against theological adversaries ; lie plainly hints that no 
one within living memory had brought into the literary 
arena such an arsenal of obscene language. Luther behaved 
" like a conqueror, assured by the spirit that he was able to 
walk upon the sea." Spirits must, however, be tried. "The 
triumphal car of the victor can only be awarded to Luther 
and his followers if it be admitted that to triumph is 
synonymous with befouling the face and garments of all foes 
with vituperative filth ( conviciorum stercora), so that they 
are forced to save themselves by flight from the intolerable 
stench and dirt. Never in any literary struggle has such an 
array of weapons of that sort been seen.* One could well 
understand how such a man inspired fear amongst all who 
valued the cleanliness of their garments. Well might he be 
left to triumph with his assertion, which his adversaries 
would be the last to gainsay, " that everything which is not 
Gospel, must make room for the Gospel." 2 

1 Such was the writer s indignation that his words are scarcely 
worthy of a Humanist. The following comes from the " Responsio ad 
convitia Lutheri " (1523, " Opera." Lovanii, 1566, p. 1 16 ), not published 
under More s own name : " Nihil habet in ore (Lutherus) praettr 
latrinas, merdas, stercora, quibus foedius et spurcius quam ullus unquam 
scurra scurratur. . . . Si pergat scurrilitate ludere nee aliud in ore 
gesture quam sentinas, cloacas, latrinas, merdas, stercora, faciant quod 
volent alii, nos ex tempore capiemus consilium, velimusne s^c bacchantem 
. . . cum suis merdis et stercoribu* cacantem cacatumque relinquere. ^ 

2 In "Replica contra periculosa scripta" etc., 1522, O, 4 . Alsc 
"Opp. omnia," Ingolstadii, 1543. 


Some have gone so far as to say, that the tone of the 
popular religious writers of the period, from 1450-1550, was 
frequently so vulgar that there is little to choose between 
them and Luther. This is an unfair and unhistorical 
aspersion on a sort of literature then much read and which, 
though now little known, is slowly coming to its due owing 
to research. We may call to mind the long list of those in 
whose writings Luther could have found not merely models 
of decency and good taste which might well have shamed 
him but also much else worthy of imitation ; for instance, 
Thomas a Kempis, Jacob Wimpfeling, Johann Men sing, 
Johann Hoffmeister, Michael Vehe, Johann Wild, Matthias 
Sittard, Caspar Schatzgeyer, Hieronymus Dungersheim, 
Ulrich Krafft, Johannes Fabri, Marcus de Weida, Johann 
Staupitz, and lastly Peter Canisius, who also belonged 
practically to this period. Many other popular religious 
authors might be enumerated, but it is impossible to instance 
a single one among them who would have descended to the 
level of the language employed by Luther. 

Moreover, those secular writers of that day whose offensive 
crudities have been cited in excuse of Luther, all differed 
from him in one particular, viz. they did not employ these 
as he did, or at least not to the same extent, as contro 
versial weapons. It is one thing to collect dirty stories and 
to dwell on them at inordinate length in order to pander 
to the depraved taste of the mob ; it is quite another to 
pelt an enemy with filthy abuse. Hate and fury only make 
a vulgar tone more repulsive. There are phrases used by 
Luther against theological adversaries which no benevolent 
interpretation avails to excuse. Such was his rude answer 
to the request of the Augsburgers (above, p. 233), or, again, 
" I would rather advise you to drink Malvasian wine and 
to believe in Christ alone, and leave the monk (who through 
being a monk has denied Christ) to swill water or seinen 
eigenen Urin. "* 

It may occur to one to plead in justification the language 
of the peasants of that day, and it must be conceded, that, 
even now, in certain districts the countryman s talk is such 
as can only be appreciated in the country. The author of a 
book, " Wie das Volk spricht " (1855), who made a study of 
the people in certain regions not particularly remarkable 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 47, p. 315. 


for culture or refinement, says quite rightly in his Preface, 
that his examples are often quite unsuited " for the ears ot 
ladies, and those of a timorous disposition " ; " the common 
people don t wear kid gloves." This writer was dealing with 
the present day, yet one might ask what indulgence an 
author would find were he to draw his language from such 
a source, particularly did he happen to be a theologian, a 
spiritual writer or a reformer ? Luther undoubtedly savours 
of his time, but his expressions are too often reminiscent of 
Saxon familiarity; for instance, when he vents his displeasure 
in the words : "The devil has given his mother erne Fhege 
in den Hint cm. ?1 

Luther was fond of introducing indelicacies of this sor 
even into theological tracts written in Latin and destined 
for the use of the learned, needless to say to the huge scandal 
of foreigners not accustomed to find such coarseness in the 
treatment of serious subjects. Under the circumstances we 
can readily understand the indignation of men like Sir 
Thomas More (above, p. 237, n. 1) at the rudeness of 
the German. 

Luther s example proved catching among his followers 
and supporters. A crowd of writers became familiar with 
the mention of subjects on which a discreet silence is usually 
observed, and grew accustomed to use words hitherto 
banished from polite society. So well were Luther s works 
known that they set the tone. His favourite pupils, 
Mathesius and Aurifaber, for instance, seem scarcely aware 
of the unseemliness of certain questions discussed. Sleidan, 
the well-known Humanist historian, described the obscene 
woodcuts published by Luther and Lucas Crtmach in 1545 
in mockery of the Papacy, " as calmly as though they had 
been no worse than Mr. Punch s kindly caricatures. ] 
Luther actually told the theologians and preachers (and his 
words carried even more weight with secular writers, who 
were less hampered by considerations of decency) that 
" those who filled the office of preacher must hold the filth 
of the Pope and the bishops up to their very noses," 3 for 
the "Roman court, and the Pope who is the bishop of that 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 57. 

2 Bohmer, " Luther im Lichte der neueren Forsehung, p. 72 ; 
2 ed., p. 106. 

3 "Werke," Erl. ed., 45, p. 153 ; cp. 44. p. 321. 


court, is the devil s bishop, the devil himself, nay, the 
excrement which the devil has . . . into the Church." 1 

One of Luther s most ardent defenders in the present day, 
Wilhelm Walther of Rostock, exonerates Luther from any 
mere imitation of the customary language of the peasants 
or the monks, for, strange to say, some have seen in his tone 
the influence of monasticism; he claims originality for Luther. 
" Such a mode of expression," he says, " was not in Luther s 
case the result of his peasant extraction or of his earlier life. 
For, far from becoming gradually less noticeable as years 
went on, it is most apparent in his old age." 2 It is plain 
that Luther s earlier Catholic life cannot be held responsible, 
nor the monastic state of celibacy, often misjudged though 
it has been in certain quarters. As regards the reassertion 
in him of the peasant s son, we are at liberty to think what 
we please. At any rate, we cannot but endorse what Walther 
says concerning the steady growth of the disorder ; in all 
likelihood the applause which greeted his popular and 
vigorous style reacted on Luther and tended to confirm him 
in his literary habits. As years passed he grew more and 
more anxious that every word should strike home, and 
delighted in stamping all he wrote with the individuality of 
" rude Luther." Under the circumstances it was inevitable 
that his style should suffer. 

Walther thinks he has found the real explanation in 
Luther s " energy of character " and the depth of his " moral 
feeling " ; here, according to him, we have cause of his 
increasingly lurid language ; Luther, " in his wish to 
achieve something," and to bring " his excellent ideas " 
home to the man in the street, of set purpose disregarded the 
"esthetic feelings of his readers" and his own " reputation 
as a writer." Melanchthon, says Walther, " took offence 
at his smutty language. Luther s reply was to make it 
smuttier still." 

This line of defence is remarkable enough to deserve to be 
chronicled. From the historical standpoint, however, we 
should bear in mind that Luther had recourse to " smutti- 
ness " not merely in theological and religious writings or 
when desirous of producing some effect with " his excellent 

1 "Werke," Erl. ed., 44, p. 296. In a sermon. 

2 Lutherophilus (Wilh. Walther), " Das sechste Gebot und Luthers 
Leben," 1893, p. 33 f. ; and " Fur Luther," p. 593 ff. 


ideas." The bad habit clings to him quite as much elsewhere, 
and disfigures his most commonplace conversations and 
casual sallies. 

Thus the psychological root of the problem lies somewhat 
deeper. We shall not be far wrong in believing, that a man 
who moved habitually amidst such impure imaginations, 
and gave unrestrained expression to statements of a 
character so offensive, bore within himself the cause. 
Luther was captain in a violent warfare on vows, religious 
rules, celibacy and many other ordinances and practices of 
the Church, which had formerly served as barriers against 
sensuality. Consciously or unconsciously his rude nature 
led him to cast off the fetters of shame which had once held 
him back from what was low and vulgar. After all, language 
is the sign and token of what is felt within. It was chiefly 
his own renunciation of the higher standard of life which led 
him to abandon politeness in speech and controversy, and, 
in word and imagery, to sink into ever lower depths. Such 
is most likely the correct answer to the. psychological 
problem presented by the steady growth of this question 
able element in his language. 

Fricdrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (" Wcrke," 7, p. 401) has 
a few words, not devoid of admiration for Luther, which, 
however, apply to the whole man and not merely to his 
habits of speech. They may well serve as a transition to 
what follows : " Luther s merit lies in this, that he pos 
sessed the courage of his sensuality in those days tactfully 
described as the freedom of the Gospel. ; 

5. On Marriage and Sexuality 

Christianity, with its doctrine of chastity, brought into 
the heathen world a new and vital element. It not only 
inculcated the controlling of the sexual instinct by modesty 
and the fear of God, but, in accordance with the words of our 
Saviour and His Apostle, St. Paul, it represented voluntary 
renunciation of marriage and a virgin life as more perfect 
and meritorious in God s sight. What appeared so entirely 
foreign to the demands of nature, the Christian religion 
characterised as really not only attainable, but fraught with 
happiness for those who desired to follow the counsel of 
Christ and who trusted in the omnipotence of His grace. 

in. R 


The sublime example of our Lord Himself, of His Holy 
Mother, and of the disciple whom Jesus loved, also St. Paul s 
praise for virginity and the magnificent description in the 
Apocalypse of the triumphal throng of virgins who follow 
the Lamb, chanting a song given to them alone to sing all 
this inspired more generous souls to tread with cheerfulness 
the meritorious though thorny path of continence. Besides 
these, countless millions, who did not choose to live un- 
wcdded, but were impelled by their circumstances to 
embrace the married state, learnt in the school of Christi 
anity, with the help of God s grace, that in matrimony too 
it was possible for them to serve God cheerfully and to gain 
everlasting salvation. 

The Necessity of Marriage. 

After having violated his monastic vows, Luther not 
only lost a true appreciation of the celibate state when 
undertaken for the love of God, but also became disposed 
to exaggerate the strength of the sexual instinct in man, 
to such an extent, that, according to him, extra-matrimonial 
misconduct was almost unavoidable to the unmarried. 
In this conviction his erroneous ideas concerning man s 
inability for doing what is good play a great part. He 
lays undue stress on the alleged total depravity of man and 
represents him as the helpless plaything of his evil desires 
and passions, until at last it pleases God to work in him. 
At the same time the strength of some of his statements on 
the necessity of marriage is due to controversial interests ; 
to the desire to make an alluring appeal to the senses of 
those bound by vows or by the ecclesiastical state, to become 
unfaithful to the promises they had made to the Almighty. 
Unfortunately the result too often was that Luther s 
invitation was made to serve as an excuse for a life which 
did not comply even with the requirements of ordinary 

" As little as it is in my power," Luther proclaims, " that I 
am not a woman, so little am I free to remain without a wife." 1 

"It is a terrible thing," he writes with glaring exaggeration 
to Albert, Archbishop of Mayence, " for a man to be found without 
a wife in the hour of death ; at the very least he should have an 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 276 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 511. Sermon 
on the Married Life, 1522, i.e. long before his own marriage. 


earnest purpose of getting married. For what will he say when 
God asks him : I made you a man, not to stand alone 
take a wife ; where then is your wife ? 

To another cleric who fancied himself compelled to marry, he 
writes in the year of his own wedding : " Your body demands 
and needs it ; God wills it and insists upon it." 2 

" Because they [the Papists] rejected marriage [!], he says, 
" and opposed the ordinance of God and the clear testimony 
and witness of Scripture, therefore they fell into fornication, 
adultery, etc., to their destruction." 3 

" Just as the sun has no power to stop shining, so also is it 
implanted in human nature, whether male or female, to bo 
fruitful. That God makes exceptions of some, as, for instance, 
on the one hand of the bodily infirm and impotent, and on the 
other of certain exalted natures, must be regarded m the same 
light as other miracles. . . . Therefore it is likewise not my will 
that such should marry." 4 

" A man cannot dispense with a wife for this reason : 
natural instinct to beget children is as deeply implanted as that 
of eating and drinking." Hence it is that God formed the 
human body in the manner He did, which Luther thereupon 
proceeds to describe to his readers in detail. 5 

" Before marriage we are on fire and rave after a woman. . . . 
St. Jerome writes much of the temptations of the flesh. Yet 
that is a trivial matter. A wife in the house will remedy that 
malady. Eustochia [Eustochium] might have helped and 
counselled Jerome." 6 

One sentence of Luther s, which, as it stands, scarcely does 
honour to the female sex, runs as follows : " The Word and 
work of God is quite clear, viz. that women were made to bo 
either wives or prostitutes." 7 

By this statement, which so easily lends itself to misunder 
standing, Luther does not mean to put women in the alternative 
of choosing either marriage or vice. In another passage of the 
same writing he says distinctly, what he repeats also elsewhere : 
" It is certain that He [God] does not create any woman to bo a 
prostitute." Still, it is undeniable that in the above passage, in 
his recommendation of marriage, he allows himself to be carried 
away to the use of untimely language. In others of the passages 
cited he modifies his brutal proclamation of the force of the 
sexual craving, and the inevitable necessity of marriage, by 
statements to quite another effect, though these are scarcely 
noticeable amid the wealth of words which he expends in favour 

1 Letter of June 2, 1525, ibid., 53, p. 311 ; Letters, ed. De Wette, 2, 
676 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 186). 

2 To Reissenbiisch, " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 276 f. ; Erl. ed., 
53, p. 286 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 145). 

3 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 191. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 24, p. 53 ff. 

5 Ibid., 10, 2, p. 156 = 28, p. 199. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 196. 

" Werke," Weim. ed , 12, p. 94 ; Erl. ed., 51, p. 6. 


of man s sensual nature ; for instance, he speaks of the " holy 
virgins," who " live in the flesh as though not of the flesh, thanks 
to God s sublime grace." 1 "The grace of chastity" 2 was, he 
admits, sometimes bestowed by God, yet he speaks of the person 
who possesses it as a " prodigy of God s own " ; 3 such a one it is 
hard to find, for such a man is no "natural man." 4 Such 
extravagant stress laid on the fewness of these exceptions might, 
however, be refuted from his own words ; for instance, he urges 
a woman whose husband is ill to do her best with the ordinary 
grace of God bestowed on her as on all others, and endure with 
patience the absence of marital intercourse. " God is much too 
just to rob you of your husband by sickness in this way without 
on the other hand taking away the wantonness of the flesh, if 
you on your part tend the sick man faithfully." 5 

That for most men it is more advisable to marry than to 
practise continence had never been questioned for a moment by 
Catholics, and if Luther had been speaking merely to the majority 
of mankind, as some have alleged he was, his very opponents 
could not but have applauded him. It is, however, as impossible 
to credit him witli so moderate a recommendation as it is to 
defend another theory put forward by Protestants, viz. that 
his sole intention was to point out " that the man in whom 
the sexual instinct is at work cannot help being sensible of it." 

His real view, as so frequently described by himself, is 
linked up to some extent with his own personal experiences 
after lie had abandoned the monastic life. It can scarcely be by 
mere chance that a number of passages belonging here syn 
chronise with his stay at the Wartburg, and that his admission 
to his friend Melanchthon ("I burn in the flames of my carnal 
desires . . . ferveo carne, libidine ") 6 should also date from 
this time. 

In an exposition often quoted from his course of sermons on 
Exodus, Luther describes with great exaggeration the violence 
and irresistibility of the carnal instinct in man, in order to con 
clude as usual that ecclesiastical celibacy is an abomination. 
His strange words, which might so readily be misunderstood, 
call for closer consideration than is usually accorded them ; they, 
too, furnished a pretext for certain far-fetched charges against 

1 "Werke," Weim. od. 18, p. 276 = 53; p. 288: " Briefe " ed 
De Wette, 2, p. 039 (" Brief wechsel," 5, p. 145). 

2 Ibid., p. 410 311 = 676 (to Archbishop Albert of Mayence). 

3 Ibid., 10, 2, p. 279 = 16 2 , p. 515, in sermon quoted above, p. 242, 
n. 1; Luther here speaks of " three kinds of men " whom God has ex 
empted from matrimony. 

4 In the letter to the Archbishop of Mayence. " I speak of the 
natural man. With those to whom God gives the grace of chastity I do 
not interfere." 

5 " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 291 f. ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 527 f 
" Vom Eelichen Leben," 1522. 

6 Letter of July 13, 1521, " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 189 Cp our 
vol. ii., pp. 82 f., 94 f. 


With the Sixth Commandment, says Luther, God scolds, 
mocks and derides us " ; this Commandment shows that the 
world is full of " adulterers and adulteresses," all are " whore 
mongers " ; on account of our lusts and sensuality God accounted 
us as such and so gave us the Sixth Commandment ; to a man 
of good conduct it would surely be an insult to say : "My good 
fellow, see you keep your plighted troth ! " God, however, 
wished to show us "what we really are." "Though we may 
not be so openly before the world [i.e. adulterers and whore 
mongers], yet we are so at heart, and, had we opportunity, time 
and occasion, we should all commit adultery. It is implanted 
in all men, and no one is exempt ... we brought it with us 
from our mother s womb." 1 Luther does not here wish to 
represent adultery as a universal and almost inevitable vice, or 
to minimise its sinfulness. Here, as so often elsewhere, he 
perceives he has gone too far and thereupon proceeds to explain 
his real meaning. "I clo not say that we are so in very deed, 
but that such is our inclination, and it is the heart that God 
searches." Luther is quite willing to admit : " There are certainly 
many who do not commit fornication, but lead quite a good life ^ ; 
" this is due either to God s grace, or to fear of Master Hans " 
(the hangman). " Our reason tells us that fornication, adultery 
and other sins are wrong. ... All these laws are decreed by 
nature itself," just like the Commandment not to commit murder. 2 
" But we are so mad," " when once our passions are aroused, 
that we forget everything." Hence we cannot but believe, that 
" even though our monks vowed chastity twice over," they were 
adulterers in God s sight. The conclusion ho arrives at^ is : 
" Such being our nature, God forbids no one to take a wife." 

The whole passage is only another instance of Luther s desire 
to magnify the consequences of original sin without making due 
allowance for the remedies provided by Christianity, the sacra 
ments in particular. It is also in keeping with his usual method 
of clothing his attack on Catholicism in the most bitter and 
repulsive language, a method which gradually became a second 
nature to him. 

In insisting on the necessity of marriage, Luther does not 
stop to consider that the Church of antiquity, for all her 
esteem for matrimony, was ever careful to see that the duties 
and interests of the individual, of the State and of the 
Church were respected, and not endangered by hasty 
marriages. Luther himself was not hampered by considera 
tions of that sort, whether in the case of priests, monks or 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 16, p. 511 ; cp. p. 512. 

2 For other passages in which Luther inculcates either ^ chastity or 
faithfulness in the married state, see, for instance, " Werke," Weim. ed., 
10, 2, pp. 298, 302 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , pp. 132 f., 137, and " Colloq., ed. 
Rebenstock, 2, p. 95 ; " Deus omnipotent . . . castus, etc., castitatem 
diligit, pudicitiam et verecundiam ornat," etc. 


laymen. The unmarried state revolted him to such a degree, 
that he declares nothing offended his " ears more than the 
words nun, monk and priest," and that he looked on mar 
riage as "a Paradise, even though the married pair lived in 
abject poverty." 1 A couple, who on account of their cir 
cumstances should hesitate to marry, he reproaches with a 
" pitiful want of faith." " A boy not later than the age of 
twenty, and a girl when she is from fifteen to eighteen 
years of age [ought to marry]. Then they are still healthy 
and sound, and they can leave it to God to see that their 
children are provided for." 2 

If we are to take him at his word, then a cleric ought to 
marry merely to defy the Pope. " For, even though he may 
have the gift so as to be able to live chastely without a wife, 
yet he ought to marry in defiance of the Pope, who insists 
so much on celibacy." 3 

The " Miracle " of Voluntary and Chaste Celibacy. 

Of the celibate and continent life Luther had declared 
(above, p. 242-3) that practically only a miracle could render 
it possible. 4 If we compare his statements on virginity, we 
shall readily see how different elements were warring within 
him. On the one hand he is anxious to uphold the plain 
words of Scripture, which place voluntary virginity above 
marriage. On the other, his conception of the great and, 
without grace, irresistible power of concupiscence draws 
him in the opposite direction. Moreover, man, being devoid 
of free will, and incapable of choosing of his own accord the 
higher path, in order not to fall a prey to his lusts, must 
resolutely embrace the married state intended by God 
for the generality of men. Then, again, we must not discount 
the change his views underwent after his marriage with 
a nun. 

In view of the " malady " of " the common flesh," he 
says of the man who pledges himself to voluntary chastity, 
that " on account of this malady, marriage is necessary to 

1 To Nicholas Gerbel, Nov. 1, 1521, " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 241, 
from the Wartburg. Ibid. : " Devotis religiovorum et sacerdotum Philippo 
et mihi est robusta conspiratio, tollendis et evacuandis videlicet. O 
sceleratum- ilium Antichrisium cum squamis suis ! " 

" Werke," Weim. ed.. 10, 2, p. 303 f. ; Erl. ed., I6 2 , p. 139. 

3 Erl. ed., (31, p. 167. 

4 See vol. ii., p. 115 ft 1 ., and vol. iv., xxii. 5. 



him and it is not in his power to do without it ; for his flesh 
racres burns and tends to be fruitful as much as that of any 
other man, and he must have recourse to marriage as the 
necessary remedy. Such passion of the flesh God permits 
for the sake of marriage and for that of the progeny. 
And yet, according to another passage in Luther s writings 
even marriage is no remedy for concupiscence : Sensual 
passion ( libido ) cannot be cured by any remedy, not evci 
marriage, which God has provided as a medicine for weak 
nature. For the majority of married people arc adulterers, 
and each says to the other in the words of the poet : Neither 
with nor without you can I live. " Experience teaches 
us, that, in the case of many, even marriage is not a sufficient 
remedy ; otherwise there would be no adultery or fornica 
tion, whereas, alas, they are only too frequent," 

It is merely a seeming contradiction to his words 011 t 
miraculous nature of virginity when Luther says on one 
occasion : " Many arc to be met with who have this gilt ; 
I also had it, though with many evil thoughts and dreams, 
for possibly, owing to his reference to himself, modesty led 
him here to represent this rare and miraculous gift as less 
unusual. Here he speaks of " many," but usually of the 
" few." " We find so few who possess God s gift ot 
chastity." 5 "They are rare," he says in his sermon on 
conjugal life, " and among a thousand there is scarcely one 
to be found, for they are God s own wonder-works ; no man 
may venture to aspire to this unless God calls him in a 
special manner." 6 

Luther acknowledges that those in whom God works tJ 
" miracle "who, while remaining unmarried, do not 
succumb to the deadly assaults of concupiscence were to 
be esteemed fortunate on account of the happiness ot 
celibate state. It would be mere oiic-sidedness to dwell 
solely upon Luther s doctrine of the necessity and worth 
of marriage and not to consider the numerous passages in 
which he speaks in praise of voluntary and chaste celibacy. 
" Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 114; Erl. ed., 51, p. 30. " 1 Cor. vii.," 

*" PP . lat. exeg.," 1, p. 212. " Enarr. in Genesim," c. 3 ; " Maior 
enim pars conjugatorum vivit in adulteriis," etc. 

3 Ibid., p. 302 sea., in c. 4. ... 

4 Werke," Erl. ed., 44, p. 148. Sermon on Matthew x vii i. ff. 

5 Werke " Weim. ed., 12, p. 115; Erl. ed., 51, p. 32. 1 Cor. vii 
etc 6 Ibid , 10, 2, p. 279 -16 2 , p. 11.3. Sermon 011 Married Lite. 


He says in the sermon on conjugal life : " No state of life is 

to be regarded as more pleasing in the sight of God than the 

married state. The state of chastity is certainly better on earth 

as having less of care and trouble, not in itself, but because a 

iian can give himself to preaching and the Word of Gocl [1 Cor. 

vii. 34]. . . . In itself it is far less exalted." 1 In the following 

year,^ 1523, in his exposition of 1 Corinthians, chapter vii., St. 

Paul s declaration leads him to extol virginity : " Whoever has 

grace to remain chaste, let him do so and abstain from marriage 

and not take upon himself such trouble unless need enforce it as 

bt. Paul here counsels truly ; for it is a great and noble freedom 

be unmarried and saves one from much disquietude, vexation 

and trouble." 2 He even goes so far as to say : " It is a sweet 

joyous and splendid gift, for him to whom it is given, to be chaste 

cheerfully and willingly," 3 and for thig reason in particu ] ar - is it 

? kne thing," because it enables us the better to serve the 

w tian 9 hurches tho Evangel and the preaching of the 

Word ; this is the case " when you refrain from taking a wife 

so as to be at peace and to be of service to the Kingdom of 

Heaven. The preacher, he explains, for instance, was not 

expected to ply a trade, for which reason also he received a 

stipend for preaching. "Hence, whoever wishes to serve the 

Churches and to enjoy greater quiet, would do well to remain 

without a wife, for then he would have neither wife nor child to 

support. 4 " Whoever has the gift of being able to live without 

a wife, is an angel on earth and leads a peaceful life." 5 

In this way Luther comes practically to excuse, nay, even to 
eulogise, clerical celibacy ; elsewhere we again find similar ideas 
put forward. 

In his Latin exposition of Psalm cxxviii. he says : " There 
must be freedom either to remain single or to marry. Who would 
lorce the man who has no need to marry to do so ? Whoever is 
among those who are able to receive this word, let him remain 
unmarried and glory in the Lord. . . . They who can do without 
marrying do well (recte faciunt) to abstain from it and not to 
burden themselves with the troubles it brings." 6 And again- 
Whoever is set free by such a grace [a special and exalted 
grace of God ], let him thank God and obey it," 7 For "if we 
contrast the married state with virginity, chastity is undoubtedly 
a nobler gift than marriage, but, still, marriage is as much God s 
bt. Paul tells us as chastity." 8 Compared with the 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., p. 302 = 137 

2 Ibid., 12, p. 137-51, p. 63 f. 

3 Ibid., p. 99=10. 

4 Ibid., ErJ. ed., 44, p. 151 f. Sermon on Matthew xviii. ff 

* Ibid., p. 153, where he tells a tale of how St. Bernard and St. 
Brands made snow- women, " to lie beside them and thus subdue 
tliGir PB.SSIOII. 

6 " Opp. lat. exeg.," 20, p. 126 seq. 

Gene3is W 1527." ^^ "^ ^ P 55 ; Erh ed " 33 P 59 Sermons on 
8 Ibid., 12, p. 104 = 51, p. 16 f. " 1 Corinthians, vii.," etc. 


chastity of marriage, "virgin chastity is more excellent (vir- 
ginalis castitas excellentior est)." 1 "Celibacy is a gift of God 
and we commend both this and the married state in their measure 
and order. We do not extol marriage as though we should slight 
or repudiate celibacy." 2 

Usually Luther represents virginity as not indeed superior 
but quite equal to the married state: "To be a virgin or^a 
spouse is a different gift ; both are equally well pleasing to God." 3 
As we might expect, we find the warmest appreciation of celibacy 
expressed before Luther himself began to think of marriage, 
whereas, subsequent to 1525, his strictures on celibacy become 
more frequent. In 1518, without any restriction, he has it 
that virginity is held to be the highest ornament and " an 
incomparable jewel " ; in the case of religious, chastity was all 
the more precious because " they had of their own free will given 
themselves to the Lord." 4 In the following year, comparing the 
married state with virginity, he says that " virginity is better," 
when bestowed by the grace of God. 5 

" The breach with the past caused by his marriage," says 
M. llade, was " greater and more serious " than any change 
effected in later years in matrimonial relationship. 6 By 
his advocacy of marriage, as against celibacy and his glorifica 
tion of family life, Luther brought about " a reversal of all 
accepted standards." 7 llade, not without sarcasm, remarks : 
" There is something humorous in the way in which Luther 
in his exposition of 1 Corinthians vii., which we have 
repeatedly had occasion to quote, after praising virginity 
ever passes on to the praise of the married state." 8 It is 
quite true that his interpretation seems forced, when he 
makes St. Paul, in this passage, extol continciicy, not on 
account of its " merit and value in God s sight," but merely 
for the " tranquillity and comfort it insures in this life." 9 
To Luther it is of much greater interest, that St. Paul should 
be "so outspoken in his praise of the married state and 
should allude to it as a Divine gift." He at once proceeds 

1 " Opp. lat. excg.," 0, p. 22. " Eriarr. in Genesim," c. 24. 

2 Ibid., 7, p. 286, in c. 30. 

3 Ibid., 20, p. 131. >w Eiiarr. in Ps. 128." 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 1, p. 488 f. ; " Opp. lat. exeg.," 12, p. 160 
seqq. " Decem praecepta praedicata populo," 1518. 

5 Ibid., 2, p, 168 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 62. Sermon on the conjugal 
tate, 1519, " altered and corrected." Cp. also present work, vol. iv., 
xxii. 5. 

6 " Die Stellung des Christentums zum Geschlechtsleben, Tubin 
gen, 1910, p. 40. 

7 Ibid., p. 53. 8 Ibid., p. 49. 
9 " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 137 ; Erl. ed., 51, p. 64. 


to prove from this, that " the married state is the holiest 
state of all, and that certain states had been falsely termed 
religious and others secular ; for the reverse ought to 
be the case, the married state being truly religious and 
spiritual." 1 

Luther s animus against celibacy became manifest every 
where. He refused to give sufficient weight to the Bible 
passages, to the self-sacrifice so pleasing to God involved 
in the unmarried state, or to its merits for time and for 
eternity. It is this animus which leads him into exaggeration 
when he speaks of the necessity of marriage for all men, 
and to utter words which contradict what he himself had 
said in praise of celibacy. 

He paints in truly revolting colours the moral abomina 
tions of the Papacy, exaggerating in unmeasured terms the 
notorious disorders which had arisen from the infringement 
of clerical celibacy. His controversial writings contain 
disgusting and detailed descriptions of the crimes committed 
against morality in the party of his opponents ; the 
repulsive tone is only rivalled by his prejudice and 
want of discrimination which lead him to believe every 
false report or stupid tale redounding to the discredit of 

His conception of the rise of clerical celibacy is inclined 
to be hazy : " The celibacy of the clergy commenced in the 
time of Cyprian." Elsewhere he says that it began "in the 
time of Bishop Ulrich, not more than five hundred years 

He assures us that " St. Ambrose and others did not believe 
that they were men." 3 "The infamous superstition [of 
celibacy] gave rise to, and promoted, horrible sins such as 
fornication, adultery, incest . . . also strange apparitions 
and visions. . . . What else could be expected of monks, 
idle and over-fed pigs as they were, than that they should 
have such f ancies ? " 4 In the Pope s Ten Commandments 
there was, so he said, a sixth which ran : " Thou shalt not 

i "Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 104 f. -=16 ff. 

"Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 291. For proofs that the Western 
law of continence goes back to the early ages of the Church and was 
spoken of even at the Synod of Elvira in 305 or 306, see my " History 
of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages " (Eng. Trans ) iii p 271 ff 

" Werke," Erl. eel., 61, p. 298. 
4 Ibid., p. 297; " Colloq.," 2, p. 366 seq. 


be unchaste, but force then, to be so " (by means ol ! vows 
and celibacy), and a ninth: " Thou shalt not covet thy 
neighbour s wife, but say, it is no sm. 

"Were all those living under the Papacy kneaded 
toother, not one would be found who had remained chaste 
up to Ms fortieth year. Yet they talk much of virginity and 
find fault with all the world while they themselves arc up 
to their cars in filth. "- ; It pleases me to see rts 

sticking in the mud iust like us. But it is true that God 
alots nature to remain, together with the spint and with 

grace, " : 

i " Wprke " Weim ed., 8, p. 553 seq. ; Erl ed., 28, p. 128. 

7hM24 D 517 34 p 130 f. f in the Sermons on Genesis, 1527. 
3 Th * l^ P 140 We may add some further statements character- 

s zz* 


s^SJTo^^^wno. ideo Dctw dcdi fcomint membra, wa*, /? wcc ^ 
omnia, We a^ gener andum inserviunt Qui his rdmso ^ ^ 

simul, sicut Deus (eos) creavit et natura milt . . 1 ^ er ^ inhibitions 
quominusfornicentur, ftuxibus maculentur et urantur f 


Luther s Loosening of the Marriage Tie. 

Luther, advocate and promoter of marriage though he 
was, himself did much to undermine its foundations, which 
must necessarily rest on its indissolubility and sanctity as 
ordained by Christ. In the six following cases which he 
enumerates he professes to find sufficient grounds for 
dissolving the marriage tic, overstepping in the most 
autocratic fashion the limits of what is lawful to the manifest 
detriment of matrimony. 

He declares, first, that if one or other of the married 
parties should be convicted of obstinately refusing "to 
render the conjugal due, or to remain with the other," then 

the marriage was annulled " ; the husband might then 
say : " If you are unwilling, some other will consent ; if 
the wife refuse, then let the maid come " ; he had the full 

462 : Si in singulis civitatibus forent vel quinque juvenes et quinque 
pueUae vigmti annorum, integri, sine fluxibus naturae, tune dicercm 
primitiva tempora apostolorum ct martyrum rcdiisse. Nunc autem 
quatcm Sodomam et Gomorr ham fecit diabolus ubicunque plane per istarn 
sim/ularem castitatem votorum ! " 

In the sermon on conjugal life, in 1522, ho says : " It is true that the 
n who does not marry is obliged to sin. How can it be otherwise, 
that God created man and woman to be fruitful and multiply ? 

fft U 9 y Qnn W6 i? < ? t f 1 reSta11 Sin bv marri age ? " ( Werke, Weim ed. , 

ft 9 Qnni 1 ere, em e., 

10 2, p. 300 ; Erl. ed., 1 6 , p. 537). In his latter years he penned the 
following attack upon the older Church of which the obscenity vies 
with its untruth : The chaste Pope does not take a wife, yet all 
women are his The lily-white, chaste, shamefaced, modest, Holy 
Father wears the semblance of chastity and refuses to take a wife 
honourably and m the sight of God ; but how many other women he 
keeps, not only prostitutes, but married women and virgins, look at his 
Court of Cardinals, his Bishoprics, Foundations, Courtesans, Convents, 
Clergy, Chaplains, Schoolmasters and his whole curia, not to speak of 
count ess unnanmble sins Well, may God give us His grace and 
punish both the Pope and Mohammed with all their devils ! " ( Werke " 
Ji,rl. ed Go, p. 204, in the Preface to the writing : " Verlegung des 
Alcoran Bruder Bichardi," 1542). It is simply an Example of Luther s 
habitual misrepreseiitation when we read in one of his sermons dating 
from 1524 ( Werke Weim. ed., 15, p. 667) : " Up to this time marriage 
has been a despised state, being termed a state of easy virtue ; but 
Scripture says : Male and female He created them (Gen i 27) 
that is enough for us In practice we all extol this state. Oh, that all 
fhn? iTfi ^ J- ^ 1 hoe r ver has not been exempted by God, let him see 
" f A f n ^ [a fP 0118 ^-" U P n h self he looked as one 
xempted by God, at least he declared in several passages of this 
s^rnon, delivered in the very year of his marriage, that" by the Grace 
of God he did not desire a wife ; I have no need of a wife, but must 
3t you in your necessity." He himself could not yet make up his 
mind to carry out what he urged so strongly upon others 


right to take an Esther and dismiss Vasthi, as King Assucrus 
had done (Esther ii. 17). 1 To the remonstrances of his wife 
he would be justified in replying : " Go, you prostitute, go 
to the devil if you please " ; 2 the injured party was at liberty 
to contract a fresh union, though only with the sanction ol 
the authorities or of the congregation, while the offending 
party incurred the penalty of the law and might or might 
not be permitted to marry again. 3 

The words : "If you won t . . . then let the maid come 
were destined to become famous. Not Catholics only, but 
Protestants too, found in them a stone of offence. As they 
stand they give sufficient ground for scandal. Was it, how 
ever, Luther s intention thereby to sanction relations with 
the maid outside the marriage bond ? In fairness the 
question must be answered in the negative. Both before 
and after the critical passage the text speaks merely of the 
dissolution of the marriage and the contracting of another 
union ; apart from this, as is clear from other passages, 
Luther never sanctioned sexual commerce outside matri 
mony. Thus, strictly speaking, according to him, the 
husband would only have the right to threaten the obstinate 
wife to put her away and contract a fresh union with the 
maid. At the same time the allusion to the maid was 
unfortunate, as it naturally suggested something different 
from marriage. In all probability it was the writer s 
inveterate habit of clothing his thought in the most drastic 
language at his command that here led him astray. It 
may be that the sentence "Then let the maid come 
belonged to a rude proverb which Luther used without 
fully adverting to its actual meaning, but it has yet to be 
proved that such a proverb existed before Luther s day ; 
at any rate, examples can be quoted of the words having 
been used subsequently as a proverb, on the strength of his 

1 " Wcrke," Weim. cd., 10, 2, p. 290 ; Erl. cd., 1G 2 , p. 526, in the 
Sermon on conjugal life, 1522. ,, 

2 Ibid 10 3 p 222 = 23, p. 116 f., in the work "On marriage matters, 
to the pastors and preachers, 1530. Cp. " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, 

P 3 As regards the authorities, Luther s wish was that they should 
interfere in the matter from the outset, and that strongly, although ie 
can scarcely have hoped to see this carried out in practice. Ihe 
authorities must either coerce the woman or put her to death. > 
they not do this, the husband must imagine that his wife has I 
carried off by brigands and look about him for another (ibid.). 


example. 1 It was on this, the first ground for the dissolu 
tion of marriage, that Luther based his decision in 1543, 
when one of the Professors turned preacher and his wife 
refused to follow him to his post at Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 
saying that " she wasn t going to have a parson." Luther 
then wrote : "I should at once leave her and marry 
another," should she categorically refuse compliance ; in 
reality the authorities ought to coerce her, but unfortunately 
no authority " with executio existed, having power over 
the ministerium. " 2 

Secondly, according to Luther, the adultery of one party 
justified the other in assuming that the " guilty party 
was already ipso facto divorced " ; "he can then act as 
though his spouse had died," i.e. marry again, though 
Christian considerations intimate that he should wait at 
least six months. 3 

Thirdly, if one party " will not suffer the other to live in 
a Christian manner," then the other, finding a separation 
from bed and board of no avail, has the right to " make a 
change," i.e. to contract another union. " But how," he 
asks, if this new spouse should turn out ill and try to force 
the other to live like a heathen, or in an unchristian 
manner, or should even run away; what then, supposing 
this thing went on three, four or even ten times ? " Luther s 
answer to the conundrum is the same as before : " We 
cannot gag St. Paul, and therefore we cannot prevent those 
who desire to do so from making use of the freedom he 
allows." Luther s conviction was that the well-known 
passage in 1 Corinthians vii. 15 sanctioned this dangerous 
doctrine. 4 

Fourthly, if subsequent to the marriage contract one 
party should prove to be physically unfit for matrimony, 
then, according to Luther, the marriage might be regarded 

1 How the expression was at once taken up among Luther s oppo 
nents is plain from a letter of Duke George of Saxony to his representa 
tive at the Diet, Dietrich von Werthern, in F. Gess, " Akten und 
Briefe Georgs," etc., 1, p. 415. Cp. Weim ed., 10, 2, p. 290 n., and 
vol. iv., xxii. 5. 

2 Mathesius, " Tischreden," ed. Kroker, p. 323 f. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 289 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 525 f. Sermon 
on conjugal life. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 123 ; Erl. ed., 51, p. 44 n., in the 
work " Das sieb~dt Capitel S. Pauli zu den Corinthern aussgelegt," 

1 * **- O. 


as dissolved without any ecclesiastical suit solely by " con 
science and experience." He would in that case advise, he 
says, that the woman, with the consent of the man, should 
enter into carnal relations with someone else, for instance, 
with her partner s brother, for her husband would really be 
no husband at all, but merely a sort of bachelor life-partner ; 
this marriage might, however, be kept secret and the 
children be regarded as those of the putative father. 1 
where it was not a question of impotence but of leprosy 
Luther decided in much the same way, without a word of 
reference to any ecclesiastical or legal suit : should the 
healthy party "be unable or unwilling to provide for the 
household " without a fresh marriage, and should the sick 
party " consent willingly to a separation," then the latter 
was simply to be looked upon as dead, the other party being 
free to re-marry. " s 

To these grounds of separation Luther, however, added 
a fifth. He declared, on the strength of certain biblical 
passages, that marriage with the widow of a brother for 
whicK on showing sufficient grounds, it was possible to 
obtain a dispensation in the Catholic Church was invalid 
under all circumstances, and that therefore any person 
married on the strength of such a dispensation might 
conclude a fresh union. At first, in 1531, such was not his 
opinion, and he declared quite valid the marriage of Henry 
VIII. with his sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon, which 
was the outcome of such a dispensation ; later on, however, 
in 1536, on ostensibly biblical grounds he discarded the 
Catholic view. 3 

i " Werkc," Wcim. ed., 10, 2, p. 278; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 515. She 
was to say : " Permit me to enter into a secret marriage with yoi 
brother or your best friend," etc. Luther is speaking of the ( 
" where a healthy woman had an impotent husband, etc. He Here 
refers to the similar answer he had already given in his work 
Babylonish Captivity" (" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. oi>8 ; 

lat V To JoacMm vorfweissbach, August 23, 1527, " Werke," Erl. eel., 
53 p 406 f. (" Brief wechsel," 6, p. 80). In 1540 he says: Ago 
concern privatim aliquot coniugibus, qui leprosum vel leprosam haberent, 
ut alium ducerent." Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 141. In a sermon ol 
1524 he says coarsely of an impotent wife : " 1 would not have siicl 
one beside me " (" Werke," Weim. ed., 15, p. 5(50). The marriage bon< 
was also dissolved where husband or wife had become impotent owing 
to an evil spell " ; his convictions forced him to teach this 

P ^Letter of February 16, 1542, " Briefe," 5, p. 436 ; fP... ^., P- 84. 
The question was thoroughly gone into by Rockwell, 


His views, not here alone but elsewhere, on matri 
monial questions, were founded on an altogether peculiar 
interpretation of Scripture ; he sought in Scripture for 
the proofs he wished to find, interpreting the Sacred 
Text in utter disregard of the teaching of its best authorised 
exponents and the traditions of the Church. The conse 
quences of such arbitrary exegctical study he himself 
described characteristically enough. Speaking of Carlstadt, 
who, like him, was disposed to lay great stress on Old- 
Testament examples and referring to one of his matri 
monial decisions which he was not disposed to accept, 
Luther exclaims : " Let him [Carlstadt] do as he pleases ; 
soon we shall have him introducing circumcision at Orla- 
mtinde and making Mosaists of them all." 1 

Yet he was perfectly aware of the danger of thus loosening 
the marriage tie. He feared that fresh grounds for severing 
the same would be invented day by day. 2 On one occasion 
he exclaims, as though to stifle his rising scruples, that it 
was clear that all God cares for is " faith and confession. . . . 
It does not matter to Him whether you dismiss your wife 
and break your word. For what is it to Him whether you 
do so or not ? But because you owe a duty to your neigh 
bour," for this reason only, i.e. on account of the rights of 
others, it is wrong. 3 These strange words, which have often 
been misunderstood and quoted against Luther by polemics, 
were naturally not intended to question the existence of the 
marriage tie, but they are dangerous in so far as they do not 
make sufficient account of the nature of the commandment 
and the sin of its breach. 

Most momentous of all, however, was the sixth plea in 
favour of divorce, an extension of those already mentioned. 
Not merely the apostasy of one party or his refusal to live 
with the Christian party, justified the other to contract a 
fresh union, but even should he separate, or go off, " for 

Philipps von Hessen," 1904, p. 202 ff., who says : " About 1536 a 
change took place in the attitude of the Wittenbergers towards marriage 
with relatives- in-law " (p. 216). "Thus it is evident that Luther s 
views underwent a change " (p. 217). For the answer to the question 
how far this change was due to the hope of winning over Henry VIIT. 
to the New Evangel, see vol. iv., xxi. 1. 

1 To Chancellor Briick, January 27, 1524,"" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 283. 
" Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 380 seq. 

3 "Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 131; Erl. ed., 51, p. 55. "Das 
siebedt Capitel." 


any reason whatever, for instance, through anger or dislike." 
Should " husband or wife desert the other in this way, then 
Paul s teaching [!] was to be extended so far ... that the 
guilty party be given the alternative either to be reconciled 
or to lose his spouse, the innocent party being now free 
and at liberty to marry again in the event of a refusal. 
It is unchristian and heathenish for one party to desert the 
other out of anger or dislike, and not to be ready patiently 
to bear good and ill, bitter and sweet with his spouse, as his 
duty is, hence such a one is in reality a heathen and no 
Christian." 1 

Thus did Luther write, probably little dreaming of the 
incalculable confusion he was provoking in the social con 
ditions of Christendom by such lax utterances. Yet he was 
perfectly acquainted with the laws to the contrary. He de 
claims against "the iniquitous legislation of the Pope, who, 
in direct contravention of this text of St. Paul s (1 Cor. vii. 
15), commands and compels such a one, under pain of the 
loss of his soul, not to re-marry, but to await either the 
return of the deserter or his death," thus " needlessly driving 
the innocent party into the danger of unchastity." He also 
faces, quite unconcernedly, the difficulty which might arise 
should the deserter change his mind and turn up again 
after his spouse had contracted a new marriage. He is 
simply to be disregarded and discarded . . . and serve him 
right for his desertion. As matters now are the Pope simply 
leaves the door open for runaways." 5 

The new matrimonial legislator refuses to see that he is 
paving the way for the complete rupture of the marriage tie. 
If the mere fact of one party proving disinclined to continue 
in the matrimonial state and betaking himself elsewhere is 
sufficient to dissolve a marriage, then every barrier falls, 
and, to use Luther s own words of the Pope a little 
further, "it is no wonder that the world is filled with 
broken pledges and forsaken spouses, nay, with adultery 
which is just what the devil is aiming at by f sllcu a l 
law." 3 

On the other hand, Luther, in his reforms, attacks those 
matrimonial impediments which, from the earliest Christian 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 124 f. ; Erl. ed., 51, p. 45 f. " Das 
siebedt Capitel." 

2 Ibid., p. 124-44 f. 3 Ibid., p. 124 = 45. 



times, had always been held to invalidate marriages. The 
marriage of a Christian with a heathen or a Jew he thinks 
perfectly valid, though, as was to be expected, he does not 
regard it with a friendly eye. We are not to trouble at all 
about the Pope s pronouncements concerning invalidity : 
" Just as I may cat and drink, sleep and walk, write and 
treat, talk and work with a pagan or a Jew, a Turk or a 
heretic, so also can I contract a marriage with him. There 
fore pay no heed to the fool-laws forbidding this." " A 
heathen is just as much a man or woman as St. Peter, 
St. Paul or St. Lucy." 1 

M. Rade, the Protestant theologian quoted above, con 
siders that on the question of divorce Luther took up " quite 
a different attitude," and " opened up new prospects " alto 
gether at variance with those of the past . 2 By his means was 
brought about a "complete reversal of public opinion on 
the externals of sexual life " ; in this connection to speak 
of original sin was in reality mere " inward contradiction." 
Such were, according to him, the results of the " Christian 
freedom " proclaimed by Luther. 3 

August Bebel, in his book " Die Frau und der Sozialismus," 
says of Luther : "He put forward, regarding matrimony, 
views of the most radical character." 4 " In advocating 
liberty with regard to marriage, what he had in mind was 
the civil marriage such as modern German legislation 
sanctions, together with freedom to trade and to move from 
place to place." 5 " In the struggle which it now wages with 
clericalism social democracy has the fullest right to appeal 
to Luther, whose position in matrimonial matters was 
entirely unprejudiced. Luther and the reformers even 
went further in the marriage question, out of purely utili 
tarian motives and from a desire to please the rulers con 
cerned, whose powerful support and lasting favour they 
were desirous of securing and retaining. Landgrave Philip I. 
of Hesse, who was well disposed towards the reformation," 
etc. etc. 6 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 519. 

. 2 Op. cit., above, p. 249, n. 6. 

3 Ibid., p. 51. 

4 "Die Frau und der Sozialismus," 19 Stuttgart, 1893 p 61 

5 Ibid., p. 64. 

6 Ibid. p. 61. On Philip of Hesse, see vol. iv,, xxi. 2, 



Sanctity of marriage in the Christian mind involves 
monogamy. The very word polygamy implies a reproach. 
Luther s own feelings at the commencement revolted 
against the conclusions which, as early as 1520, he had felt 
tempted to draw from the Bible against monogamy, for 
instance, from the example of the Old Testament Patriarchs, 
such as Abraham, whom Luther speaks of as "a true, 
indeed a perfect Christian." 1 It was not long, however, 
before he began to incline to the view that the example of 
Abraham and the Patriarchs did, as a matter of fact, make 
polygamy permissible to Christians. 

In September, 1523, in his exposition on Genesis xvi., he 
said without the slightest hesitation : " We must take his 
life [Abraham s] as an example to be followed, provided it 
be carried out in the like faith " ; of course, it was possible 
to object, that this permission of having several wives had 
been abrogated by the Gospel ; but circumcision and the 
sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb had also been abrogated, and 
yet they " are not sins, but quite optional, i.e. neither sinful 
nor praiseworthy. . . . The same must hold good of other 
examples of the Patriarchs, namely, if they had many 
wives, viz. that this also is optional." 5 

In 1523 he advanced the following : "A man is not 
absolutely forbidden to have more than one wife ; I could 
not prevent it, but certainly I should not counsel it." He 
continues in this passage : " Yet I would not raise the 
question but only say, that, should it come before the 
sheriff, it would be right to answer that we do not reject the 
example of the Patriarchs, as though they were not right in 
doing what they did, as the Manicheans say." 3 

The sermons where these words occur were published at 
Wittenberg in 1527 and at once scattered broadcast in 
several editions. We shall have to tell later how the Land 
grave Philip of Hesse expressly cited on his own behalf 
the passage we have quoted. 

Meanwhile, however, i.e. previous to the printing of his 
sermons on Genesis, Luther had declared, in a memorandum 

1 " Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 559 ; " Op. lat. var.," 6, p. 100, " De 
captivitate babylonica," 1520, " an liceat, non audeo definire" 

2 Ibid., 24, p. 304 ; Erl. ed., 33, p. 323. Sermons on Genesis. 

3 Ibid., p. 305 = 324 ; on the date see Weim. ed., 14, p. 250 ff. 


of January 27, 1524, addressed to Briick, the electoral 
Chancellor, regarding a case in point, viz. that of an Orla- 
munde man who wished to have two wives, that he was 
" unable to forbid it " ; it " was not contrary to Holy 
Scripture " ; yet, on account of the scandal and for the 
sake of decorum, which at times demanded the omission 
even of what was lawful, he was anxious not to be the first 
to introduce amongst Christians " such an example, which, 
was not at all becoming " ; should, however, the man, with 
the assistance of spiritual advisers, be able to form a " firm 
conscience by means of the Word," then the " matter might 
well be left to take its course." 1 This memorandum, too, 
also came to the knowledge of Landgrave Philip of Hesse. 2 

Subsequently Luther remained faithful to the standpoint 
that polygamy was not forbidden but optional ; this is 
proved by his Latin Theses of 1528, 3 by his letter, on 
September 3, 1531, 4 addressed to Robert Barnes for Henry 
VIII. and in particular by his famous declaration of 1539 
to Philip of Hesse, sanctioning his bigamy. 

His defenders have taken an unfinished treatise which he 
commenced in the spring of 1542 5 as indicating, if not a 
retractation, at least a certain hesitation on his part ; yet 
even here he shows no sign of embracing the opposite view ; 
in principle he held fast to polygamy and merely restricts it 
to the domain of conscience. The explanation of the writing 
must be sought for in the difficulties arising out of the bigamy 
of Landgrave Philip. Owing to Philip s representations 
Luther left the treatise unfinished, but on this occasion he 
expressly admitted to the Prince, that there were " four 
good reasons " to justify his bigamy. 6 

Needless to say, views such as these brought Luther into 
conflict with the whole of the past. 

Augustine, like the other Fathers, had declared that 
polygamy was " expressly forbidden " in the New Testa- 

" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 283 : " Viro qui secundam uxorem consilio 
Carlstadii petit. 

2 The Elector forwarded it together with a letter to Philip of Hesse 
on July 3, 1540. See Enders, " Briefwechsel," ibid., No. 5. 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 26, p. 523 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 4, p. 368, 
in the " Propositiones de digamia episcoporum" 

4 " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 92 ff. 

6 " Werke," Erl. ed., 65, p. 206 ff. 

6 Thus Landgrave Philip, on May 16, 1542, to his theologian Bucer 
(Lenz, " Philipps Briefwechsel," 2, p. 82). 


ment as a " crime " (" crimen "J. 1 Peter Lombard, Thomas 
Aquinas and Bonaventure speak in similar terms in the 
name of the scholasticism of the Middle Ages. Peter 
Paludanus, the so-called " Doctor egregius " (f 1342), 
repeated in his work on the Sentences, that : " Under the 
Gospel-dispensation it never had been and never would be 
permitted." 2 

It is, however, objected that Cardinal Cajetan, the famous 
theologian and a contemporary of Luther, had described 
polygamy as allowable in principle, and that Luther merely 
followed in his footsteps. But Cajetan does not deny that 
the prohibition pronounced by the Church stands, he merely 
deals in scholastic fashion with the questions whether 
polygamy is a contravention of the natural law, and whether 
it is expressly interdicted in Holy Scripture. True enough, 
however, he answers both questions in the negative. 3 In 
the first everything of course depends on the view taken with 
regard to the patriarchs and the Old Testament exceptions ; 
the grounds for these exceptions (for such they undoubtedly 
were) have been variously stated by theologians. In the 
second, i.e. in the matter of Holy Scripture, Cajetan erred. 
His views on this subject have never been copied and, 
indeed, a protest was at once raised by Catharinus, who 
appealed to the whole body of theologians as teaching that, 
particularly since the preaching of the Gospel, there was no 
doubt as to the biblical prohibition. 4 

Thus, in spite of what some Protestants have said, it was 
not by keeping too close to the mediaeval doctrine of matri 
mony, that Luther reached his theory of polygamy. 

It is more likely that he arrived at it owing to his own 

1 " De bono coniugali," c. 15 ; " P.L.," 40, col. 385 : " nunc certe 
non licet: " Contra Faustum," 1. 22, c. 47 ; " P.L.," 42, col. 428 : 
" nunc crimen est." 

2 " In IV. Sent.," Dist. 33, q. 1, a. 1. 

3 " Commentarii in Pentateuchum," Romae, 1531, f. 38 ; " Com- 
mentarii in Evangelia," Venet., 1530, f. 77; " Epistolae s. Pauli 
enarr.," etc., Venet. 1531, f. 142. 

4 Ambr. Catharinus, " Annotationes in Comment. Cajetani," Lugd., 
1542, p. 469, " In hoc prorsus omnes theologi, neminem cxcipio, con- 
aenaerunl." Cp. Paulus, " Luther und die Polygamie " (" Lit. Beilage 
der Koln. Volksztng.," 1903, No. 18), and in " Cajetan und Luther iiber 
Polygamie" (Hist.-pol. Blatter, 135, 1905, p. 81 ff.). On the opinions 
in vogue regarding the Old Testament exceptions, see Hurter, " Theol. 
spec.," 11 P. ii., 1903, p. 567, n. 605. Cp. Rockwell, "Die Doppelehe 
Philipps von Hessen," p. 236 ff. 


arbitrary and materialistic ideas on marriage. It was 
certainly not the Catholic Church which showed him the 
way ; as she had safeguarded the sanctity of marriage, so 
also she protected its monogamous character and its in- 
dissolubility. In Luther s own day the Papacy proved by 
its final pronouncement against the adultery of Henry VIII. 
of England, that she preferred to lose that country to the 
Church rather than sanction the dissolving of a rightful 
marriage (vol. iv., xxi. 1). 

Toleration for Concubinage? Matrimony no Sacrament. 

In exceptional cases Luther permitted those bound to 
clerical celibacy, on account of "the great distress of 
conscience," to contract " secret marriages " ; he even 
expressly recommended them to do so. 1 These unions, 
according to both Canon and Civil law, amounted to mere 
concubinage. Luther admits that he had advised " certain 
parish priests, living under the jurisdiction of Duke George 
or the bishops," to " marry their cook secretly." 2 

At the same time, in this same letter written in 1540, 
he explains that he is not prepared to " defend all he had 
said or done years ago, particularly at the commencement." 
Everything, however, remained in print and was made use 
of not only by those to whom it was actually addressed, 
but by many others also ; for instance, his outrageous letter 
to the Knights of the Teutonic Order who were bound by 
vow to the celibate state. Any of them who had a secret, 
illicit connection, and " whoever found it impossible to live 
chastely," he there says, " was not to despair in his weak 
ness and sin, nor wait for any Conciliar permission, for I 
would rather overlook it, and commit to the mercy of God 
the man who all his life has kept a pair of prostitutes, than 
the man who takes a wife in compliance with the decrees of 
such Councils." " How much less a sinner do you think 
him to be, and nearer to the grace of God, who keeps a 
prostitute, than the man who takes a wife in that way ? " 3 

Of the Prince-Abbots, who, on account of the position they 
occupied in the Empire, were unable to marry so long as 

1 Letter to the Elector of Saxony, 1540, reprinted by Seidemann in 
Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 198. 2 Ibid. 

3 Letter of December, 1523, " Werke," Weim. ed., 12, p. 237 f. ; 
Erl. ed., 29, p. 16 (" Brief wechsel," 4, p. 266). For the letters, to the 
Teutonic Order and concerning the Abbots, cp. our vol. ii., p. 120. 


they remained in the monastery, he likewise wrote: "I 
would prefer to advise such a one to take a wife secretly 
and to continue as stated above [i.e. remain in office], 
seeing that among the Papists it is neither shameful nor 
wrong to keep women, until God the Lord shall send other 
wise as He will shortly do, for it is impossible for things to 
remain much longer as they are. In this wise the Abbe 
would be safe and provided for." ] 

Here again we see how Luther s interest in promoting 
apostasy from Rome worked hand in hand with the lax 
conception he had been led to form of marriage. 

Of any sacrament of matrimony he refused to hear. To 
him marriage was really a secular matter, however much 
he might describe it as of Divine institution : " Know, that 
marriage is an outward, material thing like any other 
secular business." 2 " Marriage and all that appertains to it 
is a temporal thing and does not concern the Church at all, 
except in so far as it affects the conscience. - Marriage 
questions do not concern the clergy or the preachers, but 1 
authorities ; theirs it is to decide on them " ; this, the 
heading of one of the chapters of the German Table-Talk, 
rightly describes its contents. 4 

In Luther s denial of the sacramental character ot 
matrimony lies the key to the arbitrary manner in which 
as shown by the above, he handled the old ecclesiastical 
marriage law. It was his ruling ideas on faith and justifica 
tion which had led him to deny that it was a sacrament, 
The sacraments, in accordance with this view, have no 
other object or effect than to kindle in man, by means of 
the external sign, that faith which brings justification. Now 
marriage, to his mind, was of no avail to strengthen or 
inspire such faith. As early as 1519 he bewails the lack in 
matrimony of that Divine promise which sets faith at work 
(" quae fidem exerceat "), 5 and in his Theses of February 13, 
1520, he already shows his disposition to question its right 
to be termed a sacrament. 6 In his work " On the Baby 
lonish Captivity " of the same year he bluntly denies its 

1 To the Elector Joliann of Saxony, May 25, 1529, " Werke," Erl. 
ed., 54, p. 75 (" Brief wechsel," 7, p. 102) 

2 " Werke," Weirn. ed., 10, 2, 283 ; Erl. ed., 16 2 , p. 559. 
s Ibid., Erl. ed., 61, p. 219. 

6 To Spalatin, December 18, 1519, " Briefwcchsel, 2, p. 2/8 1. 
6 " Werke." Weim. ed., 6, p. 96 f. 


sacramental character, urging that the Bible was silent on 
the subject, that matrimony held out no promise of salva 
tion to be accepted in faith, and finally that it was in no 
way specifically Christian, since it had already existed 
among the heathen. 1 He ignores all that the Fathers had 
taught regarding marriage as a sacrament, with special 
reference to the passage in Ephesians v. 31 ff., and likewise 
the ancient tradition of the Church as retained even by the 
Eastern sects separated from Rome since the fifth century. 

In advocating matrimony, instead of appealing to it as 
a sacrament, he lays stress on its use as a remedy provided 
by God against concupiscence, and on its being the founda 
tion of that family life which is so pleasing to God. Incident 
ally he also points out that it is a sign of the union of Christ 
with the congregation. 2 

Luther did not, as has been falsely stated, raise marriage 
to a higher dignity than it possessed in the Middle Ages. 
No more unjustifiable accusation has been brought against 
Catholic ages than that marriage did not then come in for 
its due share of recognition, that it was slighted and even 
regarded as sinful. Elsewhere we show that the writings 
dating from the close of the Middle Ages, particularly 
German scrmonaries and matrimonial handbooks, are a 
direct refutation of these charges. 3 

Luther on Matters Sexual. 

Examples already cited have shown that, in speaking of 
sexual questions and of matters connected with marriage, 
Luther could adopt a tone calculated to make even the 
plainest of plain speakers wince. It is our present duty to 
examine more carefully this quality in the light of some 
quotations. Let the reader, if he chooses, look up the 
sermon of 1522, " On Conjugal Life," and turn to pages 58, 
59, 61, 72, 76, 83, 84 ; or to pages 34, 35, 139, 143, 144, 146, 
152, etc., of his Exposition of Corinthians. 4 We are com 
pelled to ask : How many theological or spiritual writers, 
in sermons intended for the masses, or in vernacular works, 
ever ventured to discuss sexual matters with the nakedness 

" Werke," Weim. ed., 6, p. 550 ff. ; " Opp. lat. var.," 5, p. 88 sea 
Cp. Kostlin, " Luthers Theologie," 2 2 , pp. 307 f., 311. 

3 See vol. iv., xxii. 5. 

4 In the first Erl. ed., vol. 20 (in the 2nd edition, vol. 16, p. 508 ff ) 
The Exposition in vol. 51, p. 1 fi. 


that Luther displays in his writing " Wyder den falsch 
genantten geystlichen Standt des Bapst und dcr Bischoffen 
(1522), in which through several pages Luther compares, 
on account of its celibacy, the Papacy with the abommabl 
Roman god Priapus. 1 In this and like descriptions he lays 
himself open to the very charge which he brings against the 
cleroy : " They seduce the ignorant masses and drag them 
down into the depths of unchastity." 2 He thus compares 
Popery to this, the most obscene form of idolatry, with the 
purpose of placing before the German people in the strongest 
and most revolting language the abomination by which he 
will have it that the Papacy has dishonoured and degrade 
the world, through its man-made ordinances. Yet the very 
words in which he wrote, quite apart from their blatant 
untruth, were surely debasing. In the same writing he also 
expresses himself most unworthily regarding the state of 
voluntary celibacy and its alleged moral and physical 
consequences. 3 

Here again it has been urged on Luther s behalf, that 
people in his day were familiar with such plain speaking. 
Yet Luther himself felt at times how unsuitable, nay, 
revolting, his language was, hence his excuses to his hearers 
and readers for his want of consideration, and also his 
attempt to take shelter in Holy Writ. 4 That people then 
were ready to put up with more in sermons is undeniable. 
Catholic preachers are to be met with before Luther s day 
who, although they do not speak in the same tone as he, 
do go very far in their well-meant exhortations regarding 
sexual matters, for instance, regarding the conjugal due in 
all its moral bearings. Nor is it true to say that such things 
occur only in Latin outlines or sketches of sermons, intended 
for preacher rather than people, for they are also to be found 
in German sermons actually preached. This disorder even 
called forth a sharp rebuke from a Leipzig theologian who 
was also a great opponent of Luther s, viz. Hieronymus 

i " Werke," Weim. ed., 10, 2, p. 118 ff. ; Erl. ed., 28, p. 158 ff. 

s The passageTvas given above, p. 251, n. 3. Cp. " Werke," Weim. 
ed., 10, 1, 1, p. 694 ; Erl. ed., 10 2 , p. 448. 

* Appeal to the Old Testament : "Werke," Weim. ed., 1 
p. 694; Erl. ed., 10 2 , p. 448, with the addition: "We are ashamed 
where there is no need for shame." Ibid., 10, 2, p. 118 = 28, p. 1 
St. Peter s words (2 Peter ii. 1 ff.) obliged him to paint as it d< 
the virtue of our clerical squires. 


Dungersheim. 1 In none of the Catholic preachers thus 
censured, do we, however, find quite the same seasoning 
we find in Xuther, nor do they have recourse to such, simply 
to spice their rhetoric or their polemics, or to air new views 
on morality. 

^ His contemporaries even, more particularly some 
Catholics, could not see their way to repeat what he had 
said on sexual matters. 2 " It must be conceded " that 
Luther s language on sexual questions was " at times 
repulsively outspoken, nay, coarse, and that not only to 
our ears but even to those of his more cultured contem 
poraries." Thus a Protestant writer. 3 Another admits 
with greater reserve : " There are writings of Luther s 
r hich he exceeds the limits of what was then usual." 4 

in w 

Certain unseemly anecdotes from the Table-Talk deserve 
to be mentioned here ; told in the course of conversation 
while the wine-cup went the rounds, they may well be 
reckoned as instances of that " buffoonery " for which 
Melanchthon reproves Luther. Many of them are not only 
to be found in Bindseil s " Colloquia " based on the Latin 
collection of Lauterbach, and in the old Latin collection of 
Rebenstock, but have left traces in the original notes of the 
Table-Talk, for instance, in those of Schlaginhaufen and 
Cordatus. It is not easy to understand why Luther should 
have led the conversation to such topics ; in fact, these 
improper stories and inventions would appear to have 
merely served the company to while away the time. 

For example, Luther amuses the company with the tale of a 
Spandau Provost who was a hermaphrodite, lived in a nunnery 
and bore a child ; 5 with another, of a peasant, who, after listen 
ing to a sermon on the use of Holy Water as a detergent of sin, 
proceeded to put what he had heard into practice in an indecent 
fashion ; 6 with another of self -mutilated eunuchs, in telling 
which he is unable to suppress an obscene joke concerning him 
self. 7 He entertains the company with some far from witty, 

1 " Tractatus de modo dicendi et docendi ad populum," printed at 
Landshut, 1514, pars 2, cap. 1. 

2 His Catholic pupil Oldecop says in his "Chronicle" (p. 191), 
that he would not repeat Luther s " shameful words " on the Sixth 

3 R. See berg, " Luther und Lutherthum in der neuesten kath. 
Beleuchtung,"* 1904, p. 19. * W. Walther, " Fiir Luther," p. 610. 

5 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 90. 

6 Ibid., p. 49. Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p, 177 f. 


indeed entirely tactless and indecent stories, for instancerabout 
the misfortune of a concubine who had used ink in mistake for 
ointment j 1 of the Beghine who, when violence was offered her, 
refused to scream because silence was enjoined after Compline ;* 
of a foolish young man s interview with his doctor; 3 of an 
obscene joke at the expense of a person uncovered ; 4 of a young 
man s experience with his bathing dress ; 5 of women who in 
shameless fashion prayed for a husband; 6 of the surprise of 
Duke Hans, the son of Duke George of Saxony, by his steward, etc. 7 
These stories, in Bindseil s " Colloquia," are put with the 
filthy verses on Lemnius, 8 the " Merdipoeta," and form a f 
sequence to the account of Lustig, the cook, and the substitute 
he used for sauces. 9 

These anecdotes are all related more or less in detail, but, 
apart from them, we have plentiful indelicate sayings and jokes 
and allusions to things not usually mentioned in society, sufficient 
in fact to fill a small volume. 

Luther, for instance, jests in unseemly fashion amid 
laughter " on the difference in mind and body which distinguishes 
man from woman, and playfully demonstrates from the forma 
tion of their body that his Catherine and women in general must 
necessarily be deficient in wit. 10 An ambiguous sally at the 
expense of virginity and the religious life, addressed to the ladies 
who were usually present at these evening entertainments, was 
received with awkward silence and a laugh. 11 

On another occasion the subject of the conversation was the 
female breasts, it being queried whether they were " an orna 
ment " or intended for the sake of the children. 12 Then again 
Luther, without any apparent reason, treats, and with great lack 
of delicacy, of the circumstances and difficulties attending 
confinement; 13 he also enters fully into the troubles of pregnancy, 1 * 
and, to fill up an interval, tells a joke concerning the womb of 
the Queen of Poland. 15 

I " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 426. 2 Ibid., p. 430. 
3 Ibid., p! 431. * Ibid., p. 432. * Ibid. 

Ibid., 436. 7 Ibid., 432 scq. 8 Ibid., p. 432. 

9 Ibid., 430. In Rebenstock s Latin version : " Cocus jocundus 

cum carnem . . . non poterat, etc., anu illam conspurcaviscat: 
10 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 8 : " Ridens sapientiam, qua 
volebat sua Catharina : Creator formavit masculum lato pcctore ct non 
latis femoribus, ut capax sedes sapientiae esset in viro ; latnnam vcro, 
qua stercora eiciuntur, ei parvam fecit. Porro haec in fermna sunt 
inversa. Ideo multum habent stercorum mulieres, sapientiae autem 
parum." Such passages do not tend to the higher appreciation of t 
female sex with which Luther has been credited. 

II " Ego quaero quare mulieres non optant fieri virgines ? Et tacuerunt 
omnes et omnes siluerunt ridentes" Ibid., p. 177 f. 

12 Lauterbach, "Tagebuch," p. 166. 3 Ibid., p. 184. 

i* "Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 74. 

15 Lauterbach, ibid., p. 185. Cp. Cordatus, p. 286 ; Eunuchi plus 
omnibus ardent nam appetitus castratione non perit, scd potentia. Ich 
wolt mir lieber zwey paar [thus the Halle MS.- testiculos] ansetzen 
lassen, denn eins ausschneideii. 


In the Table-Talk Luther takes an opportunity of praising the 
mother s womb and does so with a striking enthusiasm, after 
having exclaimed : " No one can sufficiently extol marriage." 
" Now, in his old age," he understood this gift of God. Every 
man, yea, Christ Himself, came from a mother s womb. 1 

Among the passages which have been altered or suppressed in 
later editions from motives of propriety comes a statement in the 
Table-Talk concerning the Elector Johann Frederick, who was 
reputed a hard drinker. In Aurifaber s German Table-Talk the 
sense of the passage is altered, and in the old editions of Stangwald 
and Selnecker the wiiole is omitted. 2 

Of the nature of his jests the following from notes of the Table- 
Talk gives a good idea : "It will come to this," he said to 
Catherine Bora, " that a man will take more than one wife. The 
Doctoress replied : Tell that to the devil ! The Doctor pro 
ceeded : Here is the reason, Katey : a wife can have only one 
child a year, but the husband several. Katey replied : Paul 
says : " Let everyone have his own wife." Whereupon the 
Doctor retorted : His own, but not only one, that you won t 
find in Paul. The Doctor teased his wife for a long time in this 
way, till at last she said : Sooner than allow this, I would go 
back to the convent and leave you with all the children. " 3 

When the question of his sanction of Philip of Hesse s bigamy 
and the scandal arising from it came under discussion, his 
remarks on polygamy were not remarkable for delicacy. He 
says : " Philip (Melanchthon) is consumed with grief about it. 
. . . And yet of what use is it ? ... I, on the contrary am a 
hard Saxon and a peasant. . . . The Papists could have seen 
how innocent we are, but they refused to do so, and so now they 
may well look the Hessian in anum. . . . Our sins are pardon 
able, but those of the Papists, unpardonable ; for they are 
eontemners of Christ, have crucified Him afresh and defend their 
blasphemy wittingly and wilfully. What are they trying to get 
out of it [the bigamy] ? They slay men, but we work for our 
living and marry many wives." " This he said with a merry air 
and amid much laughter," so the chronicler relates. " God is 
determined to vex the people, and if it comes to my turn I shall 
give them the best advice and tell them to look Marcolfus in 
anum, " etc. 4 On rising from table he said very cheerfully : " I 
will not give the devil and the Papists a chance of making me 
uneasy. God will put it right, and to Him we must commend the 
whole Church." 5 By such trivialities did he seek to escape his 
burden of oppression. 

1 Mathesius, " Auf zeichnuiigeii " (Kroker), p. 82. Said in 1540. 

2 Ibid., p. 373. In 1536. " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 361 : " Wer 
nicht Wurider, so er venereus wer, das or sein Freulein todtgearbeitet 
hette." 3 Schlaginhaufeii, " Aufzeiclmungen," p. 69. 

4 The reference to the Hessian is founded on a popular tale of 
Marcolfus and King Solomon. See Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 526. 

5 Mathesius, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 117 f. Cp. in the Table-Talk 
of the Mathesius Collection, ed. Kroker, p. 156 f., a similar account 
of this conversation dating from 1540, 11-19 June. It begins : " Eyo 


On one occasion he said he was going to ask the Elector to 
give orders that everybody should " fill themselves with drink " ; 
then perhaps they would abandon this vice, seeing that people 
were always ready to do the opposite of what was commanded ; 
what gave rise to this speech on drinking was the arrival of three 
young men, slightly intoxicated, accompanied by a musical 
escort. The visitors interrupted the conversation, which had 
turned on the beauty of women. l 

Many of Luther s letters, as well as his sermons, lectures and 
Table-Talk, bear sad witness to his unseemly language. It may 
suffice here to mention one of the most extraordinary of these 
letters, while incidentally remarking, that, from the point of 
view of history, the passages already cited, or yet to be quoted, 
must be judged of in the light of the whole series, in which alone 
they assume their true importance. In a letter written in the 
first year of his union, to his friend Spalatin,^ who though also 
a priest was likewise taking a wife, he says : " The joy at your 
marriage and at my own carries me away " ; the words which 
follow were omitted in all the editions (Aurifaber, De Wette, 
Walch), Enders being the first to publish them from the original. 
They are given in the note below. 2 

Luther himself was at times inclined to be ashamed 
of his ways of speaking, and repeatedly expresses regret, 
without, however, showing any signs of improvement. We 
read in Cordatus s Diary that (in 1527, during his illness) " he 
asked pardon for the frivolous words he had often spoken 

occallui sum rusticus et durus Saxo [a pun on the Latin word] ad 
eiusmodi X " (Luther probably made use of a word against which 
the pen of the writer revolted. Kroker s note). Later : " Iptti 
(papistae) occidunt homines, nos laboramus pro vita et ducimus plures 
uzores." The end of this discourse, as Loesche and Kroker have 
shown, contains verbal reminiscences of Terence, with whom Luther 
must have been well acquainted from the days of his youth. 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," Kroker, p. 373. 

2 " Saluta tuam conjugem suavissime, verum ut id turn facias cum 
in thoro suavissimis amplexibus et osculis Catharinam tenueris, ac 
sic cogitaveris : en hunc hominem, optimum creaturulam Dei mei, 
donavit mihi Christus meus, sit illi laus et gloria.^ Ego quogue cum 
divinavero diem qua has acceperis, ea node simili opere mcam amabo 
in tui memoriam et tibi par pari referam. Salutat et te et co^tam 
luam mea costa in Christo. Gratia vobiscum. Amen" Letter of 
December 6, 1525. An esteemed Protestant historian of Luther 
declared recently in the " Theol. Studien und Kritikeii " that he was 
charmed with Luther s " wholesome and natural spirit, combined with 
such hearty piety." The explanation is that this historian disagrees 
with the " shy reticence " now observed in these matters as at variance 
with the " higher moral sense," and looks on what " Thomas says 
of the actus matrimonialis " as an " entire perversion of the sound ethics 
of matrimony." Another historian " thanks Luther warmly for this 
letter," whilst a third scholar extols " the depth of feeling with which 
Luther, as a married man, comprehends the mystery of neighbourly 
love within marriage." 


with the object of banishing the melancholy of a weak 
flesh, not with any evil intent." 1 At such moments he 
appears to have remembered how startling a contrast his 
speeches and jests presented to the exhortation of St. Paul 
to his disciples, and to all the preachers of the Gospel : 
" Make thyself a pattern to all men ... by a worthy mode 
of life; let thy conversation be pure and blameless " (Titus 
ii. 7 f.). " Be a model to the faithful in word, in act, in 
faith and charity, in chastity " (1 Tim. iv. 12). 

It would be wrong to believe that he ever formally declared 
foul speaking to be permissible. It has been said that, in 
any case in theory, he had no objection to it, and, that, in 
a letter, he even recommends it. The passage in question, 
found in an epistle addressed to Prince Joachim of Anhalt, 
who was much troubled with temptations to melancholy, 
runs thus : " It is true that to take pleasure in sin is the 
devil, but to take pleasure in the society of good, pious 
people in the fear of God, sobriety and honour is well 
pleasing to God, even with possibly a word or Zotlein 
too much." 2 The expression " Zotlein " (allied with the 
French "sottise") did not, however, then bear the bad 
meaning suggested by the modern German word " Zote," 
and means no more than a jest or merry story ; that such a 
meaning was conveyed even by the word " Zote " itself can 
readily be proved. 

Especially was it Luther s practice to load his polemics 
with a superabundance of filthy allusions to the baser 
functions of the body ; at times, too, we meet therein 
expressions and imagery positively indecent. 

In his work " Vom Schem Hamphoras " against the Jews he 
revels in scenes recalling that enacted between Putiphar s wife 
and Joseph, though here it is no mere temptation but actual 
mutual sin ; the tract contains much else of the same character. 3 
In the notorious tract entitled " Wider Hans Worst," which he 
wrote against Duke Henry of Brunswick (1541), he begins 
by comparing him with a " common procuress walking the street 
to seize, capture and lead astray honest maidens " ; 4 he gradually 
works himself up into such a state of excitement as to describe 
the Church of Rome as the " real devil s whore " ; nay, the 
" archdevil s whore," the " shameless prostitute " who dwells 

1 More on this, vol. v., xxxii. 4 f. 

2 Letter of May 23, 1534, " Brief wechsel," 10, p. 48 ; " Werke," 
Erl. ed.. 54, p. 55. 

3 " Werke." Erl. ed., 32, pp. 340 f., 342 ff., 340 f. 4 Ibid., 26, p. 6. 


in a " whores church " and houses of ill-fame, and compared 
with whom, as we have already heard him say elsewhere, " common 
city whores, field whores, country whores and army whores" 1 
may well be deemed saints. In this work such figures of speech 
occur on almost every page. Elsewhere he describes the motions 
of the " Roman whore " in the most repulsive imagery. 2 

The term " whore " is one of which he is ever making use, 
more particularly in that connection in which he feels it will be 
most shocking to Catholics, viz. in connection with professed 
religious. Nor does he hesitate to use this word to describe 
human reason as against faith. In such varied and frenzied 
combinations is the term met with in his writings that one stands 
aghast. As he remarked on one occasion to his pupil Schlagin- 
haufen, people would come at last to look upon him as a pimp. 
He had been asked to act as intermediary in arranging a marriage : 
" Write this down," he said, "Is it not a nuisance ? Am I 
expected to provide also the women with husbands ? Really 
they seem to take me for a pander." 3 

Even holy things were not safe in Luther s hands, but 
ran the risk of being vilified by outrageous comparisons 
and made the subject of improper conversations. 

According to Lauterbach s Diary, for instance, Luther dis 
coursed in 1538 on the greatness of God and the wisdom manifest 
in creation ; in this connection he holds forth before the assembled 
company on the details of generation and the shape of the female 
body. He then passes on to the subject of regeneration : " We 
think we can instruct God in regenerationis et salvationis 
articulo, we like to dispute at great length on infant baptism 
and the occult virtue of the sacraments, and, all the while, poor 
fools that we are, we do not know unde sint stercora in 
ventre. " 4 Over the beer-can the conversation turns on temper 
ance, and Luther thereupon proposes for discussion an idea of 
Plato s on procreation ; 5 again he submits an ostensibly difficult 
" casus " regarding the girl who becomes a mother on the frontier 
of two countries ; 6 he relates the tale of the woman who " habitu 
viri et membro ficto " " duas uxores duxit " ; 7 he dilates on a 
" marvellous " peculiarity of the female body, which one would 
have thought of a nature to interest a physician rather than a 
theologian. 8 He also treats of the Bible passage according to 
which woman must be veiled " on account of the angels (1 Cor. 
xi. 11), adding with his customary vulgarity : "And I too must 
wear breeches on account of the girls." 9 When the conversation 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 26, pp. 23-26. 

2 Ibid., 63, p. 394 (" Tischreden "). 

3 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 82 

4 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 87 (Khummer). 

5 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 73. 

6 Ibid., p. 1. 7 Ibid., p. 2. 8 Ibid., p. 74. 
9 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 426. 


turned on the marriage of a young fellow to a lady of a certain 
age he remarked, that at such nuptials the words " Increase 
and multiply " ought not to be used ; as the poet says : "Arvinam 
quaerunt multi in podice porci," surely a useless search. 1 The 
reason " why God was so angry with the Pope " was, he elsewhere 
informs his guests, because he had robbed Him of the fruit of 
the body. "We should have received no blessing unless God had 
implanted our passions in us. But to the spark present in both 
man and wife the children owe their being ; even though our 
children are born ugly we love them nevertheless."- He then 
raises his thoughts to God and exclaims : " Ah, beloved Lord 
God, would that all had remained according to Thine order and 
creation." But what the Pope had achieved by his errors was 
well known : " We are aware how things have gone hitherto." 
" The Pope wanted to enforce celibacy and to improve God s 
work." But the monks and Papists "... are consumed with 
concupiscence and the lust of fornication." 3 Take counsel with 
someone beforehand, he says, " in order that you may not repent 
after the marriage. But be careful that you are not misled by 
advice and sophistry, else you may find yourself with a sad handful 
. . . then He Who drives the wheel, i.e. God, will jeer at you. 
But that you should wish to possess one who is pretty, pious 
and wealthy, nay, my friend ... it will fare with you as it did 
with the nuns who were given carved Jesus s and who cast 
about for others who at least were living and pleased them 
better." 4 

Thus does Luther jumble together unseemly fancies, 
coarse concessions to sensuality and praise for broken vows, 
with thoughts of the Divine. 

Anyone who regards celibacy and monastic vows from the 
Catholic standpoint may well ask how a man intent on 
throwing mud at the religious state, a man who had broken 
his most sacred pledges by his marriage with a nun, could 
be in a position rightly to appreciate the delicate blossoms 
which in every age have sprung up on the chaste soil of 
Christian continence in the lives of countless priests and 
religious, not in the cloister alone, but also in the world 
without ? 

Of his achievements in this field, of his having trodden 
celibacy under foot, Luther was very proud. To the success 

1 See above, p. 228, n. G. It is strange to note that Mathesius com 
mences the paragraph in question thus : "As occasion arose all sorts 
of wise sayings fell from his lips. The man was full of grace and the 
Holy Ghost, for which reason all who sought counsel from him as from 
God s own prophet found what they needed. One of them once asked 
whether it would be a real marriage were a young fellow," etc. 

2 Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 99. 

3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 204. 4 Ibid., p. 172. 


of his unholy efforts he himself gave testimony in the words 
already mentioned : "I am like unto Abraham [the Father 
of the Faithful] for I am the progenitor of all the monks, 
priests and nuns [who have married], and of all the many 
children they have brought into the world ; I am the father 
of a great people." 1 

By his attacks on celibacy and the unseemliness of his 
language Luther, nevertheless, caused many to turn away 
from him in disgust. Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick, who 
reverted to Catholicism in 1710, states in a writing on the 
step he had taken, that it was due to some extent to his 
disgust at Luther s vulgarity. " What writer," he says, 
" has left works containing more filth ? . . . Such was his 
way of writing that his followers at the present day are 
ashamed of it." He had compared the character of this 
reformer of the Church, so he tells us, with that of the 
apostolic men of ancient times. In striking contrast they 
were " pious, God-fearing men, of great virtue, temperate, 
humble, abstemious, despising worldly possessions, not 
given to luxury, having only the salvation of souls 
before their eyes " ; particularly did they differ from 
Luther in the matter of purity and chastity. 2 

6. Contemporary Complaints. Later False Reports 

Those of his contemporaries who speak unfavourably of 
Luther s private life belong to the ranks of his opponents. 
His own followers either were acquainted only with what 
was to his advantage, or else took care not to commit them 
selves to any public disapproval. To give blind credence in 
every case to the testimony of his enemies would, of course, 
be opposed to the very rudiments of criticism, but equally 
alien to truth and justice would it be to reject it unheard. 
In each separate case it must depend on the character of 
the witness and on his opportunity for obtaining reliable 
information and forming a just opinion, how much we credit 
his statements. 

Concerning the witnesses first to be heard, we must bear 
in mind, that, hostile as they were to Luther, they had the 

1 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 426. 

2 " Cinquante raisons," etc., Munick, 1736, consid. 25, p. 32 s. 1 
have access only to the French edition of this work, published originally 
in German and Latin. 



opportunity of seeing him at close quarters. How far their 
statements are unworthy of credence (for that they are 
not to be taken exactly at their word is clear enough) cannot 
be determined here in detail. The mere fact, however, that, 
at Wittenberg and in Saxony, some should have written 
so strongly against Luther would of itself lead us to pay 
attention to their words. In the case of the other witnesses 
we shall be able to draw some sort of general inference from 
their personal circumstances as to the degree of credibility 
to be accorded them. While writers within Luther s camp 
were launching out into fulsome panegyrics of their leader, 
it is of interest to listen to what the other side had to say, 
even though, there too, the speakers should allow them 
selves to be carried away to statements manifestly ex 

Simon Lemnius, the Humanist, who, owing to his satirical 
epigrams on the Wittenberg professor whom he had known 
personally was inexorably persecuted by the latter, wrote, in 
his " Apology," about 1539, the following description of Luther s 
life and career. This and the whole " Apology," was suppressed 
by the party attacked ; the later extracts from this writing, 
published by Schelhorn (1737) and Hausen (1776), passed over 
it in silence, till it was at last again brought to light in 1892: 
" While Luther boasts of being an evangelical bishop, how comes 
it that he lives far from temperately ? For he is in the habit of 
overloading himself with food and drink ; he has his court of 
flatterers and adulators ; he has his Venus [Bora] and wants 
scarcely anything which could minister to his comfort and 
luxury." 1 "He has written a pamphlet against me, in which, 
as both judge and authority, he condemns and mishandles me. 
Surely no pastor would arrogate to himself such authority in 
temporal concerns. He deprives the bishops of their temporal 
power, but himself is a tyrant ; lie circulates opprobrious and 
quite execrable writings against illustrious Princes. He flatters 
one Prince and libels another. What is this but to preach revolt 
and to pave the way for a general upheaval and the downfall of 
our States ? ... It is greatly to be feared, that, should war 
once break out, first Germany will succumb miserably and then 
the whole Roman Empire go to ruin. Meanwhile Luther sits like 
a dictator at Wittenberg and rules ; what he says must be 
taken as law." 2 

1 " S.B. Bohm. Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften," 1892, p. 123. In 
this volume Constantino Hofler has reprinted the lost "Apology" with 
a preface, p. 79 ff. Cp. E. Michael, " Luther imd Lemnius, \vittenber- 
gische Inquisition, 1538," in " Zeitschr. fiir katli. Theol.," 19, 1895, 
p. 450 ff., where the passage in question is given in Latin. 

- Ibid., p. 136. Michael, ibid., p. 465. 


By the Anabaptists Luther s and his followers "weak life" 
was severely criticised about 1525. Here we refer only cursorily 
to the statements already quoted, 1 in order to point out that 
these opponents based their theological strictures on a general, 
and, in itself, incontrovertible argument : " Where Christian 
faith does not issue in works, there the faith is neither rightly 
preached nor rightly accepted." 2 In Luther they were unable 
to discern a " spark of Christianity," though his "passionate 
and rude temper" was evident enough. 3 "The witless, self- 
indulgent lump of flesh at Wittenberg," Dr. Luther, was not 
only the " excessively ambitious Dr. Liar, but also a proud fool," 4 
whose "defiant teaching and selfish ways" were far removed 
from what Christ and His Apostles had enjoined. In spite of the 
manifest spiritual desolation of the people Luther was wont to 
sit " with the beer-swillers " and to eat " sumptuous repasts " ; 
he had even tolerated " open harlotry " on the part of some of 
the members of the University although, as a rule, he " manfully 
opposed " this vice. 5 

Catholic censors were even stronger in their expression of in 
dignation. Dungersheim of Leipzig, in spite of his polemics an 
otherwise reliable witness, though rather inclined to rhetoric, 
in the fourth decade of the century reproached him in his "Thirty 
Articles" for leading a "life full of scandal"; he likewise 
appeals to some who had know r n him intimately, and was ready, 
if necessary, " to relate everything, down to the circumstances 
and the names." 6 As a matter of fact, however, this theologian 
never defined his charges. 

From the Duchy of Saxony, too, came the indignant voice of 
bluff Duke George, whom Luther had attacked and slandered 
in so outrageous a fashion : " Out upon you, you forsworn and 
sacrilegious fellow, Martin Luther (may Cod pardon me), public- 
house keeper for all renegade monks, nuns and apostates ! 
He calls him " Luther, you drunken swine," you " most un 
intelligent bacchant and ten times clyed horned beast of whom 
Daniel spoke in chapter viii., etc." 8 Luther had called this 
Prince a "bloodhound"; he is paid back in his own coin: 
" You cursed, perjured bloodhound " ; he was the " arch- 
murderer," body and soul, of the rebellious peasants, " the biggest 
murderer and bloodhound ever yet seen on the surface of the 
globe." 9 "You w r ant us to believe that no one has written more 
beautifully of the Emperor and the Empire than yourself. If 
what you have written of his Imperial Majesty is beautiful, then 
my idea of beauty is all wrong ; for it would be easy to find 

1 Vol. ii., pp. 129 f., 364, 368 f., 376. 

2 Ickelsamer, " Clag etlicher Briider," ed. Enders, p. 48. See our 
vol. ii., p. 368 n. 3 Enders, p. 52. 

4 Miinzer, " Hochverursachte Schutzrede und Antwort," ed. 
Enders, p. 18 ff. 

3 See vol. ii., p. 130 f. 6 Art. 17, p. 81. 

7 In answer to the screed, " Widder den Meuchler zu Dresen " 1531, 
reprinted in " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 145. 

8 Ibid., pp. 139, 141. Ibid., p. 148 f. 


tipsy peasants in plenty who can write nine times better than 
you." 1 

From the theologian Ambrosius Catharinus we hear some 
details concerning Luther s private life. 

On the strength of hearsay reports, picked up, so it would 
appear, from some of the visitors to the Council of Trent in 1546 
and 1547, this Italian, who was often over-ardent both in attack 
and defence, wrote in the latter year his work : " De considera 
tions praesentium temporum libri quattuor." Here he says : 
" Quite reliable witnesses tell me of Luther, that he frequently 
honoured the wedding feasts of strangers by his presence, went 
to see the maidens dance and occasionally even led the round 
dance himself. They declare that he sometimes got up from the 
banquets so drunk and helpless that he staggered from side to 
side, and had to be carried home on his friends shoulders." 2 

As an echo of the rumours current in Catholic circles we have 
already mentioned elsewhere the charges alleged in 1524 by 
Ferdinand the German King, and related by Luther himself, 
viz. that he " passed his time with light women and at playing 
pitch-and-toss in the taverns." 3 We have also recorded the 
vigorous denunciation of the Catholic Count, Hoyer of Mansfeld, 
which dates from a somewhat earlier period ; this came from a 
man whose home was not far from Luther s, and to whose char 
acter no exception has been taken. Hoyer wrote that whereas 
formerly at Worms he had been a " good Lutheran," he had 
now " found that Luther was nothing but a knave," who, as 
the way was at Mansfeld, filled himself with drink, was fond of 
keeping company with pretty women, and led a loose life, for 
which reason he, the Count, had "fallen away altogether." 4 
The latter statements refer to a period somewhere about 1522, 
i.e. previous to Luther s marriage. With regard to that critical 
juncture in the year 1525 some consideration must be given to 
what Bugenhagen says of Luther s marriage in his letter to 
Spalatin, which really voices the opinion of Luther s friends at 
Wittenberg : " Evil tales were the cause of Dr. Martin s becom 
ing a married man so unexpectedly." 5 The hope then expressed 

1 " Werke," Erl. ed., 25 2 , p. 140. 

2 Venetiis, 1547. In 1548 Johann Cochlaeus collected Catharinus s 
strictures on Luther out of three of the former s writings, and entitled 
his work " De persona et doctrina M. Lutheri judic ium fratris A. 
Catharini," etc., Moguntiae, 1548. The above quotation appears in 
this collection, fol. C. 2a. For an account of the great services rendered 
by Catharinus, who for all his piety was yet too prejudiced and com 
bative, see Joseph Schweizer, " Ambrosius Catharinus Politus," 1910 
(" Reformationsgeschichtl. Studien und Texte," eel. J. Greving, Hft. 
11 and 12). Cp. the remarks of others living at a distance given below, 
p. 294 ff., and the Roman reports mentioned by Jacob Zieo-ler (vol ii 
p. 133). 

3 Luther to Spalatin on January 14, 1524, " Briefwechsel " 4 
p. 278. See our vol. ii., p. 133. 

4 See vol. ii., p. 132 f. 

5 Letter of June 1C, 1525 ;^ Maligna fama effecit," etc. See vol. ii., 
p. 175. 


by Melanchthon, that marriage would sober Luther and that he 
would lay aside his unseemliness, 1 was scarcely to be realised. 
Melanchthon, however, no longer complains of it, having at length 
grown resigned. Yet ho continued to regret Luther s bitterness 
and irritability : " Oh, that Luther would only be silent ! I had 
hoped that as he advanced in years his many difficulties and 
riper experience would make him more gentle ; but I cannot help 
seeing that in reality he is growing even more violent than before. 

Whenever I think of it I am plunged into deep distress." 2 
Leo Judse, one of the leaders of the Swiss Reformation, and 
an opponent of Wittenberg, " accuses Luther of drunkenness 
and all manner of things ; such a bishop [he says] he would not 
permit to rule over even the most insignificant see." Thus in a 
letter to Bucer on April 24, 1534, quoted by Theodore Kolde in 
his " Analccta Lutherana," 15 who, unfortunately, does not give 
the actual text, According to Kolde, Leo Judao continues 
" Even the devil confesses Christ. I believe that since the 
time of the Apostles no one has ever spoken so disgracefully 
( turpiter ) as Luther, so ridiculously and irreligiously. Unless 
we resist him betimes, what else can we expect of the man but 
that he will become another Pope, who orders things first one 
way then another ( fingit et refmgit ), consigns this one to Satan 
and that one to heaven, puts one man out of the Church and 
receives another into it again, until things come to such a pass 
that he acts as Judge over all whilst no one pays the least atten 
tion to him ? " With the exception of rejecting infant baptism, 
so Kolde goes on, Luther appeared to Judse no better than 
Schwenckfeld, with whom Bucer would have nought to do ; 
Juda? proceeds : " Not for one hundred thousand crowns would 
I have all evangelical preachers to resemble Luther ; no one 
could compare with him for his wealth of abuse and for his 
woman-like, impotent agitation ; his clamour and readiness of 
tongue are nowhere to be equalled." 4 

Powerful indeed is the rhetorical outburst of Zwingli in a letter 
to Conrad Sam the preacher of Ulm, dated August 30, 1528 : 
" May I be lost if he [Luther] does not surpass Faber in foolish 
ness, Eck in impurity, Cochljeus in impudence, and to sum it up 
shortly, all the vicious in vice." 5 

Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli s successor, attacks Luther in his 
" Warhafften Bekanntnuss " of 1545 in reply to the latter s 
" Kurtz Bekentnis " : " The booklet [Luther s] is so crammed 
with devils, unchristian abuse, immoral, wicked, and unclean 
words, anger, rage and fury that all who read it without being 
as mad as the author must be greatly surprised arid astonished, 

1 See vol. ii., p. 176, n. 3. 

2 Letter to Camerarius, April 11, 1526. " Corp. ref., 1, p. <94. 

3 Page. 205 ; " aus dem Thesaurus Baum in Strassburg." 

4 Kolde, ibid., p. 229. 

5 Quoted by R. Stahelin, " Huldreich Zwingli, 2, Basle, 1 

p. 311, and "Briefe aus der Reformationszeit," Basle, 1887, p. 21 : "si 
non stultitia Fabrum superat, impuritalc Eccium, audacia Cocleum, et 
quid multa, omnia omnium vitia," etc. 


that so old, gifted, experienced and reputable a man cannot 
keep within bounds but must break out into such rudeness and 
filth as to ruin his cause in the eyes of all right-thinking men." 1 

Johanri Agricola, at one time Luther s confidant and well 
acquainted with all the circumstances of his life, but later his 
opponent on the question of Antinomianism, left behind him 
such abuse of Luther that, as E. Tliiele says, "it is difficult to 
believe such language proceeds, not from one of Luther s Roman 
adversaries, but from a man who boasts of having possessed his 
special confidence." He almost goes so far, according to Thiele, 
as to portray him as a " drunken profligate " ; he says, " the 
pious man," the " man of God ( vir Dei )," allowed himself to 
be led astray by the " men of Belial," i.e. by false friends, and 
was inclined to be suspicious ; he bitterly laments the scolding 
and cursing of which his works were full. One of his writings, 
" Aguinst the Antinomians " (1539), was, he says, " full of lies " ; 
in it Luther had accused him in the strongest terms and before 
the whole world of being a liar ; it was " an abominable lie " 
when Luther attributed to him the statement, that God was not 
to be invoked and that there was no need of performing good 
works. When Luther s tract was read from the pulpit even the 
Wittenbergers boggled at these lies and said : " Now we see 
what a monk is capable of thinking and doing." Agricola also 
describes Luther s immediate hearers and pupils at Wittenberg 
as mere " Sodomites," and the town as the " Sister of Sodom." 2 
Such is the opinion of this restless, passionate man, who bitterly 
resented the wrong done him by Luther. (See vol. v., xxix. 3.) 

Not all the above accusations are entirely baseless, for 
some are confirmed by other proofs quite above suspicion. 
The charge of habitual drunkenness, as will be shown below 
(xvii. 7), must be allowed to drop ; so likewise must that of 
having been a glutton and of having constantly pandered 
to sensual passion ; that Luther sanctioned immorality 
among his friends and neighbours can scarcely be squared 
with his frequent protests against the disorders rife at the 
University of Wittenberg ; finally, we have to reduce to their 
proper proportions certain, in themselves justifiable, subjects 
of complaint. That, however, everything alleged against 
him was a pure invention of his foes, only those can believe 
whom prejudice blinds to everything which might tell 
against their hero. 

The charges of the Swiss theologians, though so strongly 
expressed, refer in the main to Luther s want of restraint 

1 Fol. 3, 9. Quoted by N. Paulus in the " Hist. Jahrb.," 2G, 1905, 
p. 852. 

" Theol. Studion und Kritiken," 1907, p. 246 ff. (Excerpts given 
by the Protestant scholar E. Tliiele, from a Bible at Wernigerode.) 


in speech and writing ; the vigour of their defensive tactics 
it is easy enough to understand, and, at any rate, Luther s 
writings are available for reference and allow us to appreciate 
how far their charges were justified. 

Another necessary preliminary remark is that no detail, 
accusation was ever brought against Luther of having had 
relations with any woman other than his wife ; nothing 
this nature appears to have reached the cars of the writers 
in question. Due weight must here be given to Luther 
constant anxiety not to compromise the Evangel by any 
personal misconduct. (See vol. ii., p. 133.) Luther, natur 
ally enough, was ever in a state of apprehension as to what 
his opponents might, rightly or wrongly, impute to hm 
That he was liable to be misrepresented, particularly by 
foreigners (Meander | vol. ii., p. 78] and Catharinus), is plain 
from the examples given above. The distance at wine 
Catharinus resided from Wittenberg led him to lend a 
willing ear to the reports brought, by " reliable men, 
less to say opponents of Luther. 

The deep dislike felt by faithful Catholics for the Wittcn- 
bcr<r professor and their lively abhorrence for certain mora 
doctrines expressed by him in extravagant language, 
formed a fertile soil for the growth of legends ; some of these, 
met with amongst the literary defenders of Catholic 
after Luther s death, have been propagated even m mo 
times, and accordingly call for careful examination at 
hands of the Catholic critic. Where Luther himself speaks we 
are on safe ground, as the method employed above , 
Where, however, we have to listen to strangers doubt must 
needs arise, and the task of discriminating becomes inevitable, 
owing to the speaker s probable prejudice either for 
against Luther. This applies, as we have already seen, eve, 
to Luther s contemporaries, but it holds good even , 
as we approach modern times, when, in the heat of contr 
versy things were said concerning alleged historical facts 
for instance, Luther s immorality, which were certainly quite 
unknown to his own contemporaries. Many of Lut 
accusers had never read his works, possibly had not eve, 
troubled to look up a single one of the facts or pas; 

i We have only to recall the exaggerations concerning the power of 


cited. We must, however, remember a fact which serves 
to some extent to explain the regrettable lack of exactitude 
and discernment that the prohibition of reading Luther s 
writings was on the whole strictly enforced by the authori 
ties of the Church and conscientiously obeyed by the 
faithful, even by writers. Only rarely in olden days 1 were 
iispensations granted. Thus, when attacking Luther, 
writers were wont to utilise passages quoted by earlier 
writers, often truncated excerpts given without the con 
text. Misunderstood or entirely incorrect accounts of 
events connected with his life were accepted as facts, of 
which now, thanks to his works and particularly to his 

tiers, we are in a better position to judge. Many seemed 
unaware that the misunderstandings were growing from 
age to age, the reason being that instead of taking as 
authorities the best and oldest Luther controversialists, 
those of a later date were preferred in whose writings facts 
and quotations had already undergone embellishment. 
In this wise the older popular literature came to attribute to 
Luther the strangest statements and to make complaints 
tor which no foundation existed in fact. Incautious inter 
pretation by more recent writers, whose training scarcely 
tted them for the task and who might have learnt better 
by consulting Luther s works and letters, has led to a still 
greater increase of the evil. 

In the following pages we propose to examine rather more 
narrowly certain statements which appear in the older and 
also more recent controversial works. 

Had Luther three children of his own apart from those born of his 

union with Bora ? 

By his wife Luther was father to five children, viz. Hans (1526), 
Magdalene (1529), Martin (1531), Paul (1533) and Margaret 

The paternity of another child bom of a certain Rosina 
Truchsess a servant in his house, has also been ascribed to him, 

being alleged that his references to this girl are very com- 
promising. The latter assertion, however, does not hold good, 

Jes- ls e R ea nT ^eretica.l books was made difficult oven for the 
" - , dCT Je f Ulten in den LSndern deutscher 

eamed P lemical ^ters of the Society 

writings of 

2 " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, pp. 395, 506, 625, 753. 


if only we read the passages in an unprejudiced spirit ; at most 
they prove that Luther allowed his kindliness to get the better 
of his caution in receiving into his house one who subsequently 
proved herself to be both untruthful and immoral, and that, 
when by her misconduct she had compromised her master and 
his family, he was exceedingly angry with her. It is incorrect to 
say that Rosina ever designated Luther as the father of her 

The second child was one named Andreas, of whom Luther 
is said to have spoken as his son. This boy, however, has been 
proved to have been his nephew, Andreas Kaufmann, who was 
brought up in Luther s family. Only through a mistake of the 
editor is he spoken of in the Table-Talk as " My Eriders " and 
" My son " ; later a fresh alteration of the text resulted in : 
" filius mcus Andreas. ," 1 

The third child was said to have been referred to in the Table- 
Talk as an " adulter infans," in a passage where mention is made 
of its having been suckled by Catherine during pregnancy. In 
Aurifaber s Table-Talk (1569 edition) " adulter -urn infant em " is, 
however, a misprint for " alter um infantem," which is the true 
reading as it appears in the first (1568) edition. It is true that 
the passage in question mentions of two of Luther s own children, 
that his wife was already with child before the first had been 
weaned. 2 

LutJier and Catherine Bora. 

A letter which Luther wrote to his wife from Eisleben shortly 
before the end of his life, when he was staying at the Court of the 
Count of Mansfeld, has been taken as an admission of immo 
rality : "I am now, thanks be to God, in a good case were it not 
for the pretty women who press me so hard that I again go in 
fear and peril of unchastity." 3 What exactly means this refer 
ence to unchastity ? As a matter of fact, after having partially 
recovered from his malady, he is here seeking to allay his wife s 
anxiety by adopting a jesting tone, though perhaps exception 
might be taken to the nature of his jest. That what he says was in 
tended as a joke is plain also from the superscription of the letter, 
addressed to the " Pork dealer," an allusion to her purchase 
of a garden close to the Wittenberg pig-market. In the 
letter he explains humorously to his anxious wife (this too 
has been taken seriously), that his catarrh and giddiness had 
been wholly caused by the Jews, viz. by a cold wind raised up 
against him by them or their God (he was just then engaged in a 
controversy with the Jews). The superscriptions of the various 
letters to Catherine and the jesting remarks they contain have 
also been taken far too tragically. Luther was wont to address 

1 Lauterbach, " Tagebuch," p. 141, n., and p. v. Andreas matricu 
lated at the University of Wittenberg in 1538. 

2 Cp. also Schlaginhaufen, " Aufzeichnungen," p. 112; Cordatus, 
" Tagebuch," p. 430. 

3 On February 1, 1546, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 783. 


her as deeply-learned danie, gracious lady, holy and careful lady, 
most holy Katey, Doctoress, etc., also as My Lord Katey and 
Gracious Lord Katey. It may be that the latter appellations 
refer to a certain haughtiness peculiar to her ; but it would be to 
mis-understand him entirely to see in this or even in the name 
" Kette " = chain, which he applies to her now and then, an 
involuntary admission that he was bound by the fetters of a 
self-willed wife. We have seen how he once spoke of her in a 
letter previous to his marriage as his " mistress " (Metze), which 
has led careless controversialists to fancy that Luther quite 
openly had admitted that she was " his concubine " (vol. ii., 
p. 183). At any rate, not only was Luther s language unseemly 
in many of his letters and in his intercourse with his Wittenberg 
circle, but this license of speech seems even to have infected 
the ladies of the party, at least if we may credit Simon Lemnius 
who, on the strength of what he had seen at Wittenberg, says 
that the wives of Luther, Justus Jonas and Spalatin vied with 
each other in indecent stories and confidences. 1 Thus we 
cannot take it amiss if the Catholics of that day, to whose ears 
came such rumours doubtless already magnified were too ready 
to credit them and to give open expression to their surmises. 
An instance of this is what Master Joachim von der Heyden 
wrote, in 1528, to Catherine Bora, viz. that she had lived with 
Luther before their marriage in shameful and open lewdness 
as ivas said. 2 

Did Luther indulge in " the Worst Orgies " with the Escaped Nuns 
in the Black Monastery of Wittenberg ? 

To give an affirmative reply to this would call for very strong 
proofs, which, in point of fact, are not forthcoming. The passage 
in the Latin Table-Talk 3 quoted in justification contains nothing 
of the sort, but, strange to say, a very fine exhortation to conti 
nence. For this reason we must again consider it, though it has 
already been dealt with. The exhortation commences with the 
words : " God is Almighty, Eternal, Merciful, Longsuffering, 
Chaste, etc. He loves chastity, purity, modesty. He aids and 
preserves it by the sacred institution of marriage in order that 
[as Paul says] each one may possess his vessel in sanctification, 
free from unbridled lust. He punishes rape, adultery, fornica 
tion, incest and secret sins with infamy and terrible bodily 
consequences. He warns such sinners that they shall have no 
part in the Kingdom of God. Therefore let us be watchful in 
prayer," etc. It is true, however, that this pious exhortation is 
set off by frivolous remarks, and it is probably one of these 
which suggested the erroneous reference. Luther here speaks of 
his young " relative," Magdalene Kaufmann a girl of marriage 
able age living in his house and of two other maidens of the 

1 Sim. Lemnius, " Monachopornomachia," a satire against Luther. 
Cp. Strobel, " Neue Beitrage zur Literatur," 3, 1, p. 137 ff. 

2 In Enders, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 6, p. 334. 

3 " Colloq.," ed. Rebenstock, Fraiicof., 1571, 2, fol. 95. 


same age, remarking that formerly people had been ready for 
marriage at an earlier age than now, but that he was ready t 
vouch for the fitness of these three wenches for conjugal work, 
even to staking his wife on it, etc. Of any " wicked orgies we 
hear nothing whatever. Further, it is inexact to state, as ^ has 
been done, that Luther was surrounded in "his dwelling by 
nuns whom he had given a lodging. Neither before nor after 
his marriage did they stay with him permanently ; as already 
stated (vol. ii., p. 138) he either handed over the escaped nuns 
to their friends or lodged them in families at Wittenberg. Only 
on one occasion, in September, 1525, when in the hurry it was 
impossible to find accommodation for a new band of fugitives, 
did he receive them temporarily, possibly only for a few days, 
in the great "Black Monastery." 1 There, as he himself 
expressed it, he was " privatus pater familias." 

The Passages " which will not bear repetition." 
The popular writer who is responsible for the tale of the 
" orgies " also declares, there are " other admissions of Luther s 
" which will not bear repetition." No such admissions exist, 
The phrase that this or that will not bear repetition is, however, 
a favourite one among controversialists of a certain school, 
though very misleading ; many, no doubt, will have been quite 
disappointed on looking up the passages in question in Luther s 
writings to find in them nothing nearly so bad as they had been 
led to expect ; this, indeed, was one of the reasons which im 
pelled us rigidly to exclude from the present work any reservation 
and to give in full even the most revolting passages. Of one of 
Luther s Theses against the theologians of Louvam we read, t( 
instance, in a controversial pamphlet which is not usually 
particular about the propriety of its quotations, that the author 
does " not dare reproduce it " ; yet, albeit coarsely worded, the 
passage in question really contains nothing so very dreadful, and, 
as for its coarseness, it is merely such as every reader of Luther s 
works is prepared to encounter. The passage thus incriminated, 
which reads comically enough in its scholastic presentation 
(Thesis 31), runs as follows: " Deinde niliil ex scnptuns, sea, 
omnia ex doctrinis hominum ructant [Lovanienses], vomunt et 
cacant in ecclesiam, non suam sed Dei viventis." 2 The German 
translation in the original edition of 1545 slightly aggravates the 
wording of the Thesis. 3 

1 They were received on September 29, 1525. " Briefwechsel," 5, 
p. 248. 

2 " Opp. Lat. var.," 4, 486. 

3 " Werke," Erl. eel., 65, p. 170. It has been asserted by contro 
versialists that another version of the German translation of thes< 
Theses had already been made in 1545 from which some of the mos 
"swinish expressions" were omitted through motives of modesty. 
Of any such revision during Luther s lifetime nothing is, however, 
known Probably the reference is to Caspar Cruciger s translation 
which is placed next to the older translation in Walch s edition o 


Two other assertions to Luther s disadvantage have 
something in common ; one represents as the starting-point 
of the whole movement which he inaugurated his desire to 
" wed a girl " ; the other makes him declare, three years 
before the end of his life and as the sum-total of his experi 
ence, that the lot of the hog is the most enviable goal of 
happiness. 1 A third statement goes back to his early youth 
and seeks to find the explanation of his later faults in a 
temptation succumbed to when he was little more than a 
boy. The facts, alleged to belong to his early history, may 
be taken in connection with kindred matters and examined 
more carefully than was possible when relating the details 
of his early development. After that we shall deal with the 
story of the " hog." 

Did Luther, as a Young Monk, say that he would push on until 
he could wed a Girl ? 

Such is the story, taken from a Catholic sermon preached in 
1580 by Wolfgang Agricola and long exploited in popular anti- 
Lutheran writings as a proof that Luther really made such a 
statement. A " document," an " ancient deed," nay, even a 
confidential " letter to his friend Spalatin," containing the 
statement have also been hinted at ; all this, however, is non 
existent ; all that we have is the story in the sermon. 

The sermon, which is to be found in an old Ingolstadt print, 2 
contains all sorts of interesting religious memories of Spalatin, 
the influential friend of Luther s youthful days. The preacher 
was Dean in the little town of Spalt, near Nuremberg, Spalatin s 
birthplace, from which the latter was known by the name of 
Spalatmus, his real name being Burkard. The recollections are 
by no means all of them equally vouched for, and hence wo 
must go into them carefully in order rightly to appreciate the 

Luther s works (19, p. 2258). But examination proves that Cruciger 
by no means weakened the wording, indeed, his rendering is in some 
instances even stronger, for instance, that of Theses 35, 42, 61, and 64 
The " S wine- theologians of Louvain," alluded to in his title, do not 
appear here 111 the original German edition. 

1 The latter statement was in great part withdrawn by one con 
troversial writer of standing, but not before it had been made their 
own by the lesser fry. 

"Bin christenliche Predig von dem heyligen Ehestandt durch 
Wolfgangum Agricolam Spalatinum," Ingolstadt, 1580 (Munchener 
Staatsbibkothek, Horn. 53, 8). Cp. the " Eichstatter Pastoralblatt," 
1880 No. 27 ff., where accounts taken from a Spalt Chronicle of 
Wolfgang Agncola s, according to an Eichstatt MS. (n. 248), are given, 
and where is printed the passage referring to Luther in the sermon to be 
discussed later. In the Suttner index of Eichstatt books the sermon is 
numbered 258, which explains certain mistaken references to the 
ancient deed." 


value of each. We shall see that those dealing with Luther s 
love-adventures are the least to be trusted. 

Agricoia first gives some particulars concerning Spalatm s 
past? which seem founded on reliable tradition ; in this his 
obiect is to confirm Catholics in their fidelity to the Church. 
Spalatin, in the course of a journey, came to his birth 
place and, with forty-six gulden, founded a yearly Mass for 
his parents, the anniversary having been kept ever since ever 
to the present day." It is evident that this was vouched for by 
written documents. To say, as some Protestants have, that this 
and what follows is the merest invention, is not justified. Agricoia 
goes on to inform us that Spalatin settled the finances of the family 
and that, on this occasion, he presented to the township of fepalt 
a picture of Our Lady, which had once belonged to the Schloss- 
kirche of Wittenberg, requesting, however, that, out of considera 
tion for Luther, the fact of his being the donor should be kept 
secret until after his death. Agricoia also tells how, during his 
stay Spalatin invited the " then Dean, Thomas Ludel, witJ 
the members of the chapter to be his guests, and in turn accepted 
their hospitality ; he also attended the Catholic sermons in order 
to ascertain how the Word of God was preached. Thomas 
Ludel, the Dean, found opportunity quite frankly to discuss 
Spalatin s religious attitude, whereupon the latter said : 
to your own form of Divine Service," nor did Spalatin shrink 
from giving the same advice to the people. Every year says 
Agricoia, the picture of Our Lady which he had presented was 
placed on the High Altar to remind the faithful of the exhortation 
of their fellow-citizen. 1 The picture in question is still to be 
seen to-day at Spalt, 2 The narrator goes so far as to declare 
that during the Dean s observations on his religious condi 
"the tears came to Spalatin s eyes"; "I admit," he said, 
" that we carried things too far. . . . God be merciful to us all 
From Luther s correspondence we know that Spalatm, in late 
days was much disquieted by melancholy and temptations to 
despair. Luther, by his letters, sought to inspire his friend as he 
approached the close of his life with confidence in Christ, agreeably 
with the tenets of the new Evangel. 3 

Almost all that Agricoia here relates appears, from its local 
colouring, to be absolutely reliable, but this is by no means the 
case with what is of more interest to us, viz. the account of Luther 
as prospective bridegroom which he appends to his stories ot 
Spalatin. The difference between this account and what 
gone before cannot fail to strike one. 

1 In the sermon quoted, p. 95. 

2 See the " Eichstatter Pastoralblatt," ibid. Spalatms Mutt* 

gottesbild ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ Letters, eel. De Wette 5, p. 679 ff. 
See above p 197, n. 1. In the last years of his life Spalatm fell into 
incurable melancholy which finally brought him to the ^fje (January 
1G 1546) Cp. J. Wagner, " Georg Spalatin," Altenburg, 1830 p. 
Luther was unacquainted with the actual cause of his fears, but 
that some persons thought they were due to remorse for having giver 
his sanction to an illegal marriage. 


According to this story of Agricola s, set in a period some three- 
quarters of a century earlier, Luther, as a young Augustinian, at 
Erfurt struck up a friendship with Spalatin who was still study 
ing there. At the University were two other youths from Spalt 
George Ferber, who subsequently became Doctor, parish-priest 
and Dean of Spalt, and Hans Sehlahinhauffen, All four became 
fast friends, and Luther was a frequent visitor at the house where 
they lived with a widow who had a pretty daughter. He became 
greatly enamoured of the girl and "taught her lace-making," 
until the mother forbade him the house. He often declared : 
Oh, Spalatin, Spalatin, you cannot believe how devoted I am 
to this pretty maid ; I will not die before I have brought things 
to such a pass that I also shall be able to marry a nice girl/ 
Eventually, with the assistance of Spalatin, Luther, so we are 
told, introduced his innovations, partly in order to make himself 
famous, partly in order to be able to marry a girl. l 

It is hardly probable that Wolfgang Agricola himself invented 
this story of the monk ; more likely he found it amongst the 
numerous tales concerning Spalatin current at Spalt. His 
authority for the tale he does not give. It can scarcely have 
emanated from Spalatin himself for instance, have been told 
by him on the occasion of the visit mentioned above for then 
Agricola would surely have said so. It more probably belongs to 
that category of obscure myths clustering round the early days 
of Luther s struggle with the Church. 

What is, however, of greater importance is that the monk s 
behaviour, as here described, does not tally with the facts known. 
During his first stay at the Erfurt monastery Luther was not 
by any means the worldly young man here depicted, and even 
during his second sojourn there (autumn, 1508 autumn, 1510) 
no one remarked any such tendency in him ; on the contrary, 
the seven Observantine priories chose him as their representative 
at Rome, presumably because he was a man in whom they could 
trust. We may call to mind that the then Cathedral Provost of 
Magdeburg, Prince Adolf of Anhalt, received letters from him 
at this time attesting his zeal for the " spiritual life and doc 
trine, 2 and that Luther s opponent, Cochlseus, from informa 
tion received from Luther s brethren, gives him credit for the 
careful observance of the Rule in the matter of spiritual exercises 
and studies during his first years as a monk. 3 The notable change 
in Luther s outward mode of life took place only after his return 
from Rome when he abandoned the cause of the Observantine 

Spalatin commenced his studies at Erfurt in 1498 and con 
tinued them from 1502 at Wittenberg ; thence, on their termina 
tion, he returned to Erfurt in order to take up the position of 

1 Agricola s Sermon, p. 90. 

2 Cp , N-^ulus, "Hist. Jahrb.," 1903, p. 73, where Dungersheim 
is quoted : As I have heard more than once from the lips of the said 
Lord Adolphus." 

3 " Acta et scripta Lutheri," p. 1. 


tutor at a mansion, which he soon quitted to become (1505-1508) 
spiritual preceptor in the neighbouring convent of Georgenthal. 
Thus the date of his first stay at Erfurt was too early for him, 
while himself a student, to have met Luther as a monk, s< 
that the latter only entered the monastery in 1505 His seconc 
stay presents this further difficulty, that it is not likely that 
Spalatin lived with the other students at the widow s house, but, 
first in a wealthy family, and, later, either in or near the convent 
Further, were the other two youths hailing from Spalt 
Erfurt ? A certain Johannes Schlaginhaufen from bpalt 
there in 1518 and is also mentioned as being at the U^ 1 ^ 
in 15 9 He is, perhaps, the same as the compiler ot the lab 
Talk edited by Wilhelm Preger, 1 but, if so, lie was not a fellow- 
student of Luther s at Erfurt. No other similar name appears 
in the register. The name of the second, George Ferber, cannot 
be found at all in the Erfurt University register, nor any Farber, 
Farber or Tinctoris even with another Christian name, 
there are difficulties on every side. 

Then again, the familiar visits to the girl, as though there had 
been no Rule which debarred tho young religious from s 
intercourse. We know that even in 1516 the Humanist Mutit 
had en-eat trouble in obtaining permission for an Augustiniai 
frequently to visit his house at Erfurt, even accompai 

^Hence, however deserving of credit Agricola s other accounts 
of Spalatin may be, we cannot accept his story of Lut 
doings as a monk. Nor is this the only statement concerning 
the earlier history of the Reformation in which Agncola 
gone astray. The story may have grown up at bpalt owing t 
some misunderstanding of something said by George Berber, 
the Dean of Spalt, who was supposed to have been a fell- 
student of Luther s at Erfurt, and who may possibly : 
related tales of the young Augustinian s early imprudence. J t 1 
however possible, in fact not at all unlikely, that, in 1501, when 
Luther was still a secular student at Erfurt, and according 1 
the above, a contemporary of Spalatin s, ho took a passing fancy 
to a girl in the house where Spalatin boarded, and that, d 
the controversies which accompanied tho Reformation, ^ rumour 
of this was magnified into the tale that, as a monk, Luther had 
courted a girl, had been desirous of marrying, and, for 
reason, had quitted both his Order and the Church. 

1 "Tischrodon Luthers 1531-1532" (1888). Cp. tho Introduction 
by tho editor, p. vi. Preger does not appear to have heard of \Yolt- 
gang Agricola s " Hans Schlahinhauffen." Cp. the Erfurt register, 
fn Wefsfenborn, Akten der Erfurter Universitat, 1-2 ; < also the 
Index published*! 1899. The particulars concerning .Johannes Schlagm- 
haufen are contained in the second vol., pp. 301-316. Spalatin is there 
entered (p. 207) in 1498 as : " Georgius Burchardi de^ulu ff*J"- 

2 Mutian to Johann Lang, December 0, 1516, Kolde, Ana 
Lutherana," p. 5 f. 


Luther s stay as a boy in Cotta s house at Eisenach no ground for 
a charge of immorality. 

Entirely unfounded suspicions have been raised concerning 
Luther s residence in Fran Cotta s house at Eisenach (vol. i., 
p. 5). There is not the slightest justification for thinking that 
Frau Cotta who has erroneously been described as a young 
widow acted from base motives in thus receiving the youth, 
nor for the tale of his charming her by his playing on the lute or 
the flute. 

Cuntz (Conrad) Cotta, the husband of Ursula Cotta (her 
maiden-name was Schalbe), was still living when Luther, at the 
age of fifteen or sixteen, was so kindly received into the house 
and thus dispensed from supplementing his small resources by 
singing in the streets. Conrad s name appears in 1505 in the 
Eisenach registers as one of the parish representatives. His wife 
Ursula, witness her tombstone, died in loll. 1 How old she was 
at the time she became acquainted with Luther cannot be 
determined, but quite possibly, she, like her husband, was no 
longer young. The date of death of two supposed sons of hers 
would certainly tend to show that she was then still young, but 
these two Cottas, as has been proved, were not her sons, though 
they may have been nephews. Conrad Cotta is not known to 
have had any children, and the fact of his being childless would 
explain all the more readily Luther s reception into his household. 
Mathesius, in his frequently quoted historical sermons on 
Luther, 2 says, that " a pious matron " admitted the poor scholar 
to her table. He is referring to Ursula Cotta. The word matron 
which he makes use of seems intended to denote rather respecta 
bility than advanced age. That he should mention only the wife 
is probably due to the fact that she, rather than her husband, 
was Luther s benefactress. He seems to have had the account 
from Luther himself, who, it would appear, told him the story 
together with the edifying cause of his reception. This Mathesius 
relates in a way which excludes rather than suggests any thought 
of dishonourable motives. He says that the matron conceived a 
" yearning attraction for the boy on account of his singing and 
his earnest prayer in the churches." The expression " yearning 
attraction," which sounds somewhat strange to us, was not un 
usual then and comes naturally to a preacher rather inclined to be 
sentimental, as was Mathesius. Ratzeberger the physician, a 
friend of Luther s to whom the latter may also have spoken of 
his stay at Eisenach, merely says, that the scholar " found board 
and lodging at Cuntz Cotta s." Thus he credits the husband 
with the act of charity. 

Luther could not well have played the flute there, seeing that 
he never learned to play that instrument ; as for the lute, he 
became proficient on it only during his academic years ; nor does 

1 For all the proofs bearing on the matter see E. Schneidewind " Das 
Lutherhaus in Eisenach," 1883. 

2 First ed., fol. 3. 



any source allude to musical entertainments taking place in the 
Cotta household. 

Luther relates later in the Table-Talk, 1 that he had learned this 
saying from his " hostess at Eisenach," i.e. Frau Cotta : " There 
is nought dearer on earth than the love of woman to the man 
who can win it." This, however, affords no ground for thinking 
evil. The saying was a popular one in general use and may quite 
naturally refer to the love existing between husband and wife. 
It is another question whether it was quite seemly on Luther s 
part to quote this saying as he did in his Glosses on the Bible, 
in connection with the fine description of the " mulier fortis " 
(Proverbs xxxi. 10 ff.), so distinguished for her virtue. 

Did Luther describe the lot of the Hog as the most enviable Goal 
of Happiness ? 

In view of the fear of death which he had often experienced 
when lying on the bed of sickness, Luther, so we are told, came 
to envy the lot of the hog, and to exclaim : " I am convinced that 
anyone who has felt the anguish and terror of death would rather 
be a pig than bear it for ever and ever." That such are his words 
is perfectly true, and lie even goes on to give a graphic description 
of the happy and comfortable life a pig leads until it comes under 
the hand of the butcher, all due to its unacquaintance with 

death. 2 

It should first be noted that, throughout the work in question, 
" Von den Jiiden und jren Liigen," Luther is busy with the Jews. 
He compares the happiness which, according to him, they await 
from their Messias, with that enjoyed by the pig. 3 In his cynical 
manner he concludes that the happiness of the pig was even to be 
preferred to Jewish happiness, for the Jews would not be " secure 
for a single hour " in the material happiness they expected, for 
they would be oppressed by the " horrible burden and plague of 
all men, viz. death," seeing that they merely look for a temporal 
king as their Messias, who shall procure them riches, mirth and 
pleasure. Thereupon we get one of his customary outbursts : 
" Were God to promise me no other Messias than him for whom 
the Jews hope, I would very much rather be a pig than a man." 

Yet he proceeds : I, however, as a Christian, have a better 
Messias, " so that I have no reason to fear death, being assured 
of life everlasting," etc. Well might our " heart jump for joy and 
be intoxicated with mirth." " We give thanks to the Father of 
all Mercy. ... It was in such joy as this that the Apostles sang 
and gave praise in prison amidst all their misery, and even young 
maidens, like Agatha and Lucy," etc. But the wretched Jews 
refused to acknowledge this Messias. 

How then can one infer from Luther s words, " I am convinced 
that anyone who has felt the anguish and terror of death," etc., 
that he represented the lot of the hog as the supreme goal < 

1 Vol. iv., xx ii. 5. 

a " Werke," Erl. ed. f 32, p. 261. 


3 " Werke," Erl. ed., 32, p. 260. 


Christians in general and himself in particular ? It is true that 
he magnifies the fear of death which naturally must oppress the 
heart of every believer, and for the moment makes no account 
of the consolation of Christian hope, but all this is merely with 
the object of forcing home more strongly to the Jews whom he 
is addressing, what he had just said : "Of what use would all 
this be to me [viz. the earthly happiness which you look for] if I 
could not be sure of it even for one hour ? If the horrible burden 
and plague of all men, death, still presses on me, from which I 
am not secure for one instant, but go in fear of it, of hell and the 
wrath of God, and tremble and shiver at the prospect, and this 
without any hope of its coining to an end, but continuing for all 
eternity ? " His closing words apply to unbelievers who are 
ignorant of the salvation which is in Christ : " It is better to be a 
live pig than a man who is everlastingly dying." The passage 
therefore does not convey the meaning which has been read 
into it. 

We may here glance at some charges in which his moral 
character is involved, brought against certain doctrines and 
sayings of Luther. 

Did Luther allow as valid Marriage between Brother and Sister ? 

The statement made by some Catholics that he did can be 
traced back to a misunderstanding of the simple word " dead." 
This word he wrote against several passages of a memorandum 
of Spalatin s on matrimonial questions submitted by the Elector 
in 1528, for instance, against one which ran : " Further, brother 
and sister may not marry, neither may a man take his brother s 
or sister s daughter or granddaughter. And similarly it is for 
bidden to marry one s father s, grandfather s, mother s or grand 
mother s sister." 1 The word "dead" here appended does not 
mean that the prohibition has ceased to hold, but is equivalent 
to " delete," and implies that the passage should be omitted in 
print. Luther considered it unnecessary or undesirable that the 
impediments in question should be mentioned in this " Instruc 
tion " ; he prefers that preachers should as a general rule simply 
insist on compliance with the Laws of the Empire. 

The accompanying letter of the Elector, in which he requests 
Luther to read through the memorandum, anticipates such a 
recommendation to omit. In it the writer asks whether " it 
would perhaps be better to leave this out and to advise the 
pastors and preachers of this fact in the Visitation," 2 since, in 
any case, the " Imperial Code," in which everything was con 
tained in detail, was to be taken as the groundwork. Against 
many clauses of the Instruction Luther places the word " placet " ; 
a " non placet " occurs nowhere ; on the other hand, we find 
frequently " omittatur, dead, all this dead " (i.e. " delete ") ; 
lie also says : " hoc manebil, hactenus manebit textus " (equivalent 

1 " Brief wechsel," ed. Enders, 6, p. 186. 

2 January 3, 1528, " Briefwechsel," 6, p. 180. 


to " stet "). If " dead " had meant the same as " this impedi 
ment no longer holds," then Luther would here have removed 
the impediment even between father and daughter, mother and 
son, seeing that he writes " dead " also against the preceding 
clause, which runs : " Firstly, the marriage of persons related in 
the ascending and descending line is prohibited throughout and 
in infinitum." 

Did Luther Recommend People to Pray for Many Wives 
and Few Children ? 

This charge, too, belongs to the old armoury of well-worn 
weapons beloved of controversialists. The answer to the 
question may possibly afford material of some interest to the 
historian and man of letters. 

Down to quite recent times it was not unusual to find in 
Catholic works a story of a poem, said to have been by Luther, 
found in a MS. Bible in the Vatican Library, in which Luther 
prayed that God in His Goodness would bestow " many wives 
and few children." At the present day no MS. Bible containing 
a poem by Luther, or any similar German verses, exists in the 
Vatican Library. What is meant, however, is a German transla 
tion of Holy Scripture, in five volumes, dating from the fifteenth 
century, which was formerly kept in the Vatican and now 
belongs to the Heidelberg University library. It is one of those 
Heidelberg MSS. which were brought to Rome in 1623 and 
again wandered back to their old quarters in 1816 (Palat. German, 
n. 19-23). The "poem" in question is at the end of vol. ii. 
(cod. 20). Of it, as given by Bartsch ("Die altdeutschen Hand- 
schriften der Universitat Heidelberg") and Wilken (" Heitlel- 
berger Biichersammlung ")/ we append a rough translation : 

God Almighty, Thou art good, 
Give us coat and mantle and hood, 

Many a cow and many a ewe, 
Plenty of wives and children few. 

Explicit : A small wage 
Makes the year to seem an age. 

The " poem " has nothing whatever to do with Luther. It is a 
product of the Middle Ages, met with under various forms. The 
" Explicit," too, is older than Luther and presumably was 
added by the copyist of the volume. In the seventeenth century 
the opinion seems to have gained ground that Luther was the 
author, though no Roman scholar can be invoked as having 
said so. Of the MS. Montfaucon merely says : "A very old 
German Bible is worthy of notice " ; Luther s name he does 
not mention. 2 

1 Cp. W. Walther, " Deutsche Bibelubersetzungen," 1889 ft ., p. 403 f. 

2 " Diarium italicum," 1708, p. 278. 


One witness for the ascription of its authorship to Luther was 
Max. Misson, who, in his " Nouveau voyage d ltalie," 1 gives the 
" poem " very inaccurately and states that a Bible was shown 
him at the Vatican in which Luther was said to have written it, 
and that the writing was the same as that of the rest of the 
volume. He adds, however, that it was hardly credible that 
Luther should have written such things in a Bible. 

Later, Christian Juncker, a Protestant, relates the same thing 
in his " Life of Luther," published in 1699, but likewise expresses 
a doubt. He quotes the discourse on Travels in Italy by Johann 
Fabricius, the theologian of Helmstedt, where the version of the 
verses differs from that given by Misson. 2 

According to a record of a journey to Rome undertaken in 
1693, given by Johann Friedrich von Wolfframsdorf, he, too, 
was shown a MS. Bible alleged to have been written by Luther, 
doubtless that mentioned above. 3 

As a matter of fact the " poem " in question was a popular 
mediaeval one, frequently met with in manuscripts, sometimes 
in quite inoffensive forms. At any rate, the jingling rhymes 
(in the German original : Giite, Hiite, Kinder, Kinder) are the 
persistent feature. According to Bartsch it occurs in the 
Zimmern Chronik 4 in a version attributed to Count Hans Werden- 
berg (1268), which, while retaining the same rhymes (in the 
German), inverts the meaning. Here the prayer is for : 

Potent stallions, portly oxen, 
Buxom women, plenty children. 

From a MS., " Gesta Romanorum," of 1476, J. L. Hocker 
(" Bibliotheca Heilbronnensis " 5 ), quotes a similar but shorter 
verse. 6 A different rendering of the poem was entered into a 
Diary in 1596 by Wolff von Stechau. 7 

Certain Protestant writers of the present day, not content with 
" saving Luther s honour " by emphasising the fact that the 
above verses of the Heidelberg MS. are not his, proceed to 
insinuate that they were really " aimed at the clergy " ; the 

1 Tom. 2 4 , La Haye, 1702, p. 134. 

2 " Vita Lutheri, nummis illustrata," Francof. et Lipsiae, 1699, 
pp. 225, 227. Joh. Fabricius, " Amoenitatestheologicae," Helmestadii, 
1699, p. 676, in the Notes to his " Oratio de utilitate itineris Italiae." 
Fabricius says the verses, though usually attributed to Luther, were 
not in his handwriting, nor could Luther well have composed anything 
so clumsy. Further, the sub-librarian at Rome had assured him that 
in the Vatican there was only one quarto book written by Luther. 

3 Cp. Paul Haake, " Johann Fr. v. Wolfframsdorf " (" N. Archiv 
fiir sachsische Gesch.," 22, 1901, pp. 69 f., 76 (the text not quoted). 

4 Vol. I 2 , p. 252. 5 Noribergae, 1731, p. 124. 

6 Cp. " Anzeiger fiir Kunde der deutschen Vorzeit," 1878, p. 16 
(" Ein schon Frawe on Kinder "). 

7 Ibid., 1879, p. 296 (" Ein schon Weib, viel Kinder wentzig 
Kinder "). Cp. Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 682. Walther, " Bibeliiber- 
setzungen," points out concerning the origin of the story, that, owing 
to people being unaware of the mediaeval translations of the Bible, " a 
German Bible immediately suggested the name of Luther." 


"hoods" and "hats" of which they speak were forsooth the 
monks and the cardinals , and the rhymester was all the time 
envving the gay life of the clergy ; thus the poem, so we are told, 
throws a " lurid light on the esteem in which the mediaeval monks 
and clergy were held by the laity committed to their care. 
Yet the verses contain no reference whatever to ecclesiastics. 
"Hoods" were part of the layman s dress and presumably 
" hats " too. And after all, would it have been so very wicked 
even for a pious layman to wish to share in the good things 
possessed by the clergy ? If satires on the mediaeval clergy are 
sought for, sufficient are to be found without including this 
poor jingle. 

Did Luther include Wives in the " Daily Bread " of the 

Our Father? 

Controversial writers have seen fit to accuse Luther of includ 
ing wives in the " daily bread " for which wo ask, and, in support 
of their charge, refer to his explanation of the fourth request 
of the Our Father. In point of fact in the Smaller Catechism 
the following is his teaching concerning this petition : It teaches 
us to ask God " for everything required for the sustenance and 
needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothes, shoes and house, 
a farm, fields, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children 
and servants, and good masters, etc. 1 In the Larger Catechism 
the list is similar r^Food and drink, clothes, a house and farm, 
health of body, grain and fruits, a pious wife, children and 
servants," etc. 2 With all this surely no fault can be found. 

Was Luther the originator of the proverb ^: " Who loves not^ woman, 
wine and song remains a fool his whole life long " ? 

These verses are found neither in Luther s own writings nor 
in the old notes and written traditions concerning him. Joh. 
Heinrich Voss was the first to publish them in the " Wandsbeker 
Bote " in 1775, reprinting them in his Musenalmanach (1777). 
When he was charged by Senior Herrenschmidt with having 
foisted them on to Luther, he admitted that he was unable t< 
give any account of their origin. 3 Several proverbs of a similar 
type, dating from mediaeval times, have been cited. 

A humorous remark of Luther s would appear, according 
to Seidemann, to refer to some earlier proverb linking together 
women, wine and song. The remark in question is contained ] 
the MS. collection of the Table-Talk preserved at Gotha and 

i "Werke," Erl. ed., 21, p. 15. 2 Ibid., p. 120. 

Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, 1903, p. 681, n. 498. " Possibly he merely 
translated the old Italian rhyming proverb : 

Chi non ama il vino, la donna o il canto 
Un pazzo egli sara e mai un santo, 

and, being himself an outspoken Voltairean, suppressed the santo. " 
H. Bohmer, " Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung, p. 84 ; 2nd ed., 
p. l!7f. 


known as Xcrolma," now availablo in tin, work of U Krokcr 



> c ,, LrlH I r n T T V T t0 lcCtUr n N<M/H 

H I I- mk ( OOJ)ly H0 us to bo abjo to K l" " <> < 

na K! y I . ,, from experience. Not at all, said Dr. Cordatns, 

Fa I i J tll( "I l 11 "" Thormipon Luther remarked 

" i .country, bo mntod its ovvn MJri , f , r 

>;; ."..iiiuiH un, gluttons, the Wends thieves, ?he GSS. 
excel than " ( W<lllt " H itl whilt ^ clc,( a 

- ,^V s n < . non . mtmcam 

J-his Hiy,n K of Luthor H, which was nok.l down 
by Lauterboch and Wollor, belongs to tho year 153(1. 

7. The "Good Drink" 

Amoiijr || 1( . iinpululicMis ; Wl i M st J.UIJKT S private life incst 
ominon a,Mion^r ( , ir |y controversial writers was that of 
being an habitual drunkard. 

On the other hand, many of L.,||,er s Protest ant sim- 
ters down lo our own day havi- bcrn at pains to defend 
mi agamsl, any eha,r^ (; O f inte.npera,nee. Even scholarly 
<" biographers of Lnfher ),ass over (his point in the 
tost tactful silence, or with jnsl (he merest allusion, Ihon.rh 
bhey delight to dwell on his " nal.ural enjoyment of life." 

following ])aff(.s may help to show the failin<r s O f l )() |h 
methods, ol that pursued by Luther s opi,on(-,,| s , with their 
;equently quite unjustifiable exa^ ( . ni ,i ()ns> and of that of 
cfcnders with their refusal to discuss even the really 
Sting grounds for complaint. 3 To begin with Luther s 
i-inics must resign themselves to abandon some of the 
proofs formerly adduced for his excessive addiction to 

Uns dis factory Witnesses. 

Lnthor s saying : " If ] , 1UVO u ( , U1 of |)(1( , |% 1 wan< i}w } 
H an we, 1 , has ofton boon citod against him, the. fact being 
Oked, that h () (,nly mmlo nso of this expression in order to 

" Luther Tischreden Maf,hoHi H d.n Suininluu^," ,, ;j7(i \\iih other 
PIWH.IKOH under the, I 10tt dii,g : Luu^rl.,,,,,!, and wStor! 

U " -4 ll<VU(l " " IJop llto Trunk ifl don Liithomnklttgou " 

the jpreaent wnt.-r puhlmhod an article in tho " Hint, Jahrl,.," 2li 1D05 

ff., Which, undor a roviHod form, is givon nnow in thn following 

ufuVH i ,v VJ( T \ m RtninK VOnli(!lH f " f "<- y pronounced upon 
n hi r n" 7 , ^," m y P irit Oljt W t .!. Allxn-t Wdns, o P., 

mhis Lutherpsychologie " (Main/, HMM;, ,,. jsr> f 2nd enj r > "?n 
goon HO far as to declare ho was inclined to tono dowu t his orTh t, 

by ( ; r i Har ," but thftt ho wfts ih|Uikfiil 

treated the subject with Huch moderation." 

Werke," Jirl. od., 57, p. 348, " Tischrodou." 



illustrate, by a very common example, tho idea expressed in the 
heading of tho chapter in which it occurs, viz. that " No ono is 
over satisfied." Kveryone, ho continuos, desires to go ono stop 
higher, ovoryono wants to iitt-aiii to something more, and, then, 
with other examples, ho gives that mentioned above, whoro, for 
41 I," wo might o(,ually well substitute " we," which indeed wo 
tind employed elsewhere in <his connection : "If wo havo 
one (lulden, wo want/ a hundred." 

Another passage, alleged, strange to say, by older writers, 
proves nothing: " Wo oat ourselves to death, and drink our- 
Holvos to death ; wo oat and drink ourselves into poverty and 
down to hell," Hero Luther is merely speaking against tho habit 
of drinking which had become so prevalent, and dominated some 
to such an extent, thai death and hell were tho lamentable 
consequences to be feared. (Sec below, p. W)N I.) 

Luther, wishing to drive a point homo, says that he is not. 
"drunk," 1 but is writing "in tho morning hours." Must wo 
infer, then, that he was in tho habit, of writing when drunk, <>r 
that in the afternoon he was not usually sober? Must he bo 
considered drunk whenever he does not state plainly that he is 
sober ? The truth is that such expressions wore merely his way 
of speaking. In the important pM.sssi.go hero under consideration 
he writes : " Possibly it. may bo asserted later that I did not 
sufficiently weigh what. I sa.y hero against, those who deny the 
presence of Christ in the Sacrament ; but I am not drunk or 
giddy ; I know what I am saying and what it will mean to mo 
on Judgment Day and at the second coining of the Lord Jesus 
Christ. " 1 Thus lie is speaking most, seriously and uses this 
curious verbal artifice simply to emphasise, his earnestness. 
Wore additional proof necessary it. might he found in other 
passages ; for instance: "Christ, was not drunk when lie said 
this," vi/,. the Kueharistic words of consecration, tho literal 
moaning of which Luther is upholding against, the Strasburg 

Kor the purpose of discrediting Luther an old opponent wrote : 
"Tho part- that, eating and drinking play in thojife of the 
Reformer is evident, from his letters to his Katey," and then 
went on to refer to the perfectly innocent, passage when Luther 
says, that ho preferred the boor and wine he was used to at home 
to what he was having at Dessau, whence ho wrote. The rest ol 
the letter has also been taken in an unnecessarily tragic sense : 

1 " Werkc," Wciin. (-(!., 2(5, p. 500; Krl. od., . 10, p. . W^ in M.O. 
" Voin Ahctidmnl Christ! Bckcntnis." Cp. also " Werko, Krl. !., 
2(> 2 , |>. I HO. 

* Letter to Wencesliuis Link, March P.), 1522, " Hriofwochaol, .1, 
p. :U7. The reference is, of course, to tho wordu of Peter, Ac.tsn. i:i I 

:1 Sec n. I. 

1 Koldc, " Aiuilec.tii Lutherana," p. 71, in tho Relatio (,rogoni 
Cusclii " of November 2<>, 1525. Cp. " Worko," Wciin. c^l., 12, p. 2. 
Krl od 29 p. 20, whore ho Ruyn that (jod WC.H not drunk when I 
spo ko tho wordH; aluo ibid., , ]>. 507 28, p. (Y.\ : Matthew, Mark, 
Luke ami Paul wen; not drunk whoa tlioy wrote certain things. 


" Yesterday I had some poor stuff to drink so that I had to 
begin singing : If I can t drink deep then I am sad, for a good 
deep drink ever makes me so glad. It is quite unnecessary to 
take this as a song sung by a " tipsy man " ; it is simply a jesting 
reference to a popular ditty which quite possibly he had actually 
struck up to get rid of his annoyance at the quality of the liquor. 
^ You would do well," he continues in the same jocular vein, 
" to send me over the whole cellar full of my usual wine, and a 
bottle of your beer as often as you can, else I shall not turn 
up any more for the new brew." 1 

No one who is familiar with his homely mode of speech will 
take offence at his calling himself on one occasion the " corpulent 
Doctor," and in any case this involves neither gluttony nor 
drunkenness. Moreover, the words occur in a serious connection, 
for we shall hear it from him during the last days of his life : 
When I return again to Wittenberg I shall lay myself in my 
coffin and give the worms a corpulent doctor to feast on," 2 
referring, of course, to his natural stoutness. Offence has also 
been taken at a sentence met with in Luther s Table-Talk, where 
he says of his contemporaries of fifty years before : " How thin 
they [i.e. their ranks] have become " ; from which it was inferred 
that he wished them a luxurious life and corpulence, and that ho 
regarded pot bellies as an ornament and a thing to be desired." 
From its context, however, the meaning of the word " thin " is 
clear. What Luther means is : How few of them remain in the 
land of the living. 

But does not Luther in a letter of his let fall a remark scarcely 
beseeming one in his position, viz. that he would like to be more 
frequently in the company of those " good fellows, the students," 
the beer is good, the parlour-maid pretty, the lads friendly 
(iiinig) " ? Such is one of the statements brought forward 
against him to show his inordinate love of drink. Yet, when 
examined, the letter is found to say nothing of any yearning of 
Luther s to join in the drinking-bouts of the students or of any 
interest of his in the maid. " Two honest students " had been 
recommended to Luther, and the letter informs its addressee, 
the Mansfeld Chancellor Muller at Eisleben, of the rumour that 
" too^ much was being consumed without any necessity by the 
pair " ; the Chancellor was to inform the Count of Mansfeld of the 
fact in order that he (whose proteges they may have been) 
" might keep an eye on them." Then come the words : " What 
harm would friendly supervision do ? The beer is good, the 
parlour-maid pretty and the lads young ( jung not innig ) ; 
the students really behave very well, and my only regret is that, 

1 Letter of July 29, 1534, " Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 61 (" Brief- 
wechsel," 10, p. 66). 

2 "Werke," Erl. ed., 61, p. 437 (" Tischreden "). Cp. " Ratze- 
bergers Handschriftl. Gesch.," ed. Neudecker, p. 131, and Jonas s 
obituary sermon on Luther in Walch s ed. of Luther s works 21 
Anhang, p. 373*. 

3 To Caspar Muller, March 18, 1535, " Brief wechsel, " 10, p. 137. 


owing to my weak health, I am unable to be oftener with them." 
This letter surely does Luther credit. It testifies to his solicitude 
for the two youths committed to his care ; seeing they are still 
" good and pious," he is anxious to preserve them from in 
temperance and other dangers, and regrets that, owing to his 
poor state of health, he is unable to have the pleasure of vis: 
these young fellows more often. 

We must also caution our readers against an alleged quotatic 
from Luther s contemporary, Simon Lemmus. Lcmnius i 
reported to have said : " His excessive indulgence m wine and 
beer made Luther at times so ill that he quite expected to die. 
No such statement occurs in the works of Lemmus What 1 
writer actually did say of Luther on the score of drunkenness 
will be given later. The above words are a modern invention, 
though one author, strange to say, actually tacked them c 
to the authentic passage in Lemmus as though they had 1 
to the latter. 

Again, it has been said that excessive indulgence m some 
Malvasian wine was, on Luther s own admission, the cause ot a 
malady which troubled him for a considerable time in 1529. 
Luther s letter in question speaks, however, of a severe an 
almost fatal catarrh," which lasted for a long time and almost 
deprived him of his voice ; others, too, says Luther, had su 
from the catarrh (no great wonder in the month of March or 
April) but not to the same extent as he. He had imprudent y 
aggravated the trouble possibly by preaching too energetically 
or and here comes the incriminating passage- 
some adulterated Malvasian to the health of Amsdorf. Such 
were his words to his confidential friend Jonas. The fact is that 
a wine so expensive as Malvasian was then very liable to being 
adulterated, the demand far exceeding the supply of this beverage, 
which was always expected to figure 011 the table on great 
occasions. At any rate, there is no mention here of Luther 
illness having arisen from continuous and excessive iiidu 
in wine. At the conclusion of this chapter we shall have 
consider a similar passage. 

In the above we have examined about a dozen witnesi 
testimony has been shown quite valueless to prove Lut 
alleged devotion to drink. 

The conclusions which have been drawn from the charact 
of certain of Luther s writings or utterances are also worthless 
It has been affirmed that his " Wider das Bapstum vom Teu1 
gestifft " could only have been written " under the excitemen 
produced by drink," and that many of his sayings, such as 
exhortation to " pray for Our Lord God," could have been 
uttered " only by a drunken man." 

Yet his incredible hatred sufficed of itself to explain the frenzy 
of his utterances, nor must we forget that some of his expressions 
out of place though they may seem, were chosen as best fi 
to appeal to the populace. " Pray for Our Lord God, mte: 
preted in the light of other similar expresioiis used by him, meai 
Pray for the interests of our Lord God and of the new Evangel. 


Other Witnesses, Friendly and Hostile. 

Before proceeding to scrutinise in detail the more cogent 
testimonies, we may remark that one trait in Luther s 
character, that namely which caused him to be called the 
" merry boon companion," might possibly be invoked in 
support of the charge now under consideration. 

It was his struggle with the gloomy moods to which he 
was so prone that drove Luther into cheerful company and 
to seek relief in congenial conversation and in liquor. 
That he was not over-scrupulous concerning indulgence in 
the latter comfort is attested by his own words, viz. that he 
was too fond of jests and convivial gatherings (" iocis aut 
conviviis excedere"), and that the world had some grounds 
for taking offence (" inveniat in me quo offendatur et cadat"). 1 
Yet he was very desirous of avoiding such accusations on 
the part of his opponents, though, as he puts it, they 
" calumniate even what is best and most inoffensive." 2 
When he says elsewhere in his usual gross way : " They 
spy out everything that concerns me, and no sooner do I 
pass a motion than they smell it at Rome," 3 this exclamation 
was called forth by the scandalous excess in drinking of 
which a member of his family was habitually guilty. 

Then, again, the drinking habits of the Germans of those 
days must be borne in mind. A man had to be a very hard 
drinker to gain the reputation of being a drunkard. Instances 
will be given later showing how zealously Luther attacked 
the vice of drunkenness in Germany. At that time a man 
(even though a theologian or other person much exposed 
to the gaze of the public) was free to imbibe far more 
than was good for him without remarks being made or 
his conduct censured. 

Luther s extraordinary industry and the astounding 
number of his literary productions must likewise not be 
lost sight of. We are compelled to ask ourselves whether 
it is likely that the man who wrote works so numerous and 
profound, in the midst, too, of the many other cares which 
pressed on him, was addicted to habitual drunkenness. 
How could the physical capacity for undertaking and 
executing such immense labours, and the energy requisite 

1 " Brief wechsel Bugenhagens," ed. O. Vogt, 1888, p. 64 ff. 

2 To Spalatin, August 15, "1521, " Briefwechsel," 3, p. 218. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 141. Cp. vol. ii., p. 133 f. 



for the long, uninterrupted religious and literary struggle 
into which Luther threw himself, be found in one who 
unceasingly quenched an excessive thirst with alcoholic 
drink ? Kawerau has sketched Luther s " colossal mental 
productivity " during the one year 1529, a year in which 
he was not engaged in any of his accustomed literary feuds. 1 
Works published during that year cover, in the Weimar 
edition, 287 pages, in imperial octavo, his lectures on 
Deuteronomy 247 pages and the notes of his sermons (some, 
however, in duplicate) 824 pages. In addition to this he 
was at work on his German translation of the Old Testament, 
completing the Pentateuch and making a beginning with 
the remaining historical books. Besides this he wrote in 
that year countless letters, of which comparatively few, 
viz. 112, are still extant. He also undertook five short 
journeys lasting together about a fortnight. 

During the short and anxious period, amounting to 173 
days, which he spent, in 1530, in the Castle of Coburg (it 
is to this time that some of the charges of excessive 
drinking refer), he wrote and forwarded to the press various 
biblical expositions which in the Erlangen edition occupy 
718 pages in small octavo, re-wrote in its entirety "Von den 
Schliissdn," a work of 87 pages, was all the while busy with 
his translation of Jcremias, of a portion of Ezechiel and all 
the minor Prophets, and finally wrote at least the 128 
letters and memoranda which are still extant. 2 Yet, for 
whole days during this sojourn in the Coburg, he was plagued 
with noises in the head and giddiness, results, no doubt, of 
nervous excitement. 

That such productivity would not have been possible 
"without meditation and study" 3 is, however, not quite 
true in his case. Luther wrote most of his works without 
reflection and without any real study, merely jotting down 
carelessly whatever his lively fancy suggested. 

Thus we may rightly ask whether the accusation of 
habitual participation in drinking-bouts and constant 
private excess is compatible with the work he produced. 

In the case of reports of an unfavourable nature it is of 
course necessary to examine their origin carefully ; this 

1 " Etwas vom kranken Luther " (" Deutsch-evangel. Blatter," 29, 
1904), p. 303 ff., p. 306. 

2 Ibid., p. 311 f. 3 Ibid., p. 306. 


unfortunately is not always done. As we already had 
occasion to remark when dealing with the imputations 
against his moral character, it makes all the difference 
whether the witness against him is a Catholic opponent or 
represents the New Evangel. Amongst Catholics, again, we 
must discriminate between foreigners, who were ignorant of 
German customs and who sometimes wrote merely on 
hearsay, and Luther s German compatriots. We shall not 
characterise the method of those of Luther s defenders 
who simply refuse to listen to his opponents on the ground 
that, one and all, they are prejudiced. 

Wolfgang Musculus (Mauslin), an Evangelical theologian, in 
the account of a journey in May, 1536, during which he had 
visited Luther, gives an interesting and unbiassed report of 
what ho saw at Wittenberg. 1 On May 29, Luther came, bringing 
with him Meianchthon and Lucas Cranach, to dine as Mauslin s 
guest at the inn where he was staying. There all had their share 
the wine. "When dinner was over," says the chronicler, 
we all went to the house of Master Lucas, the painter, where 
we had another drink. . . . 2 After this we escorted Luther 
home, where we drank in true Saxon style. He was marvellously 
cheerful and promised everything most readily " (i.e. probably 
that Musculus proposed concerning the agreement to be 
come to with the Zwinglians, of whom Musculus was one. The 
allusion to the " Saxon style " reminds us of Count Hoyer s 
reference to the " custom at Mansfeld " (vol. ii., p. 131). Luther s 
country does not seem to have been noted for its temperance. 

Meianchthon, as one of his pupils relates in the " Dicta Melanch- 
thoniana," tells how on a certain day in March, 1523 : " Before 
dinner ( ante coenam )" Luther, with two intimates, Justus 
Jonas and Jacob Probst, the Pastor of Bremen, arrived at 
Schweinitz near Wittenberg. Here, owing to indigestion, 
wuditas" Luther was sick in a room. In order to remove the 
bad impression made on the servant who had to clean the 
apartment, Jonas said : "Do not be surprised, my good fellow, 
the Doctor does this sort of thing every day." By this he 
certainly did not mean, as some have thought, that Luther was 
m the habit of being sick every day as the result of drink ; he 
was merely trying to shield his friend in an embarrassing situa 
tion by alleging a permanent illness. Pastor Probst, however, 
according to Melanchthon s story, betrayed Jonas by exclaiming : 
What a fine excuse ! " Jonas thereupon seized him by the 
throat and said : " Hold your tongue ! " At table the pastor 
was anxious to return to the matter, but Jonas was able to cut 
him short. Meianchthon concludes the story with a touch of 

* The " Itiiierarium," in Kolde, " Analecta Lutherana," p. 220. 
From the Bern Archives. 
2 The dots are Kolde s. 


sarcasm : " Hoc est quando posteriora intelliguntur ex prioribus." 
Was the sickness in this case due to previous drinking ? 

A letter, written by Luther himself, perhaps Mai help t 
explain the matter. On the eve of his return to Wittenbe g 
he writes from Schweinitz on Ocuh Sunday, March 8 1523, t 
hisliend the Court Chaplain Spalatin, that he had come to 
Schweinitz, where the Elector s castle stood, in order to celebrate 
with the father the baptism of the son of a convert Jew named 
Bernard. "We drank good, pure wine from the Electors 
cellar " he says ; " we should indeed be grand Evangelicals if 
wt feasted to the same extent on the Evangel . P^ase 

excuse us to the Prince for having drunk so much of his Grune- 
berger wine ( quod tantum vini Gornbergici ligurierimus ). 
Jonl and his wife greet you, also the godfathers, godmothers 
and myself ; three virgins were present, certainly Jonas, for, 
as he has no child, we call him a virgin.- The letter, curiously 
disconnected and containing such strange jests quite gixes 
impression of having been written after such a festive gathering 
as that described by the writer. 

In connection with Melanchthon s story some ^otestants 
have recently urged that, in 1523, Luther was subject to attack, 
o N sudden ^disposition " which came on him in the Corning 
and from which he found relief in vomiting and that the ab 
incident is explained by this circumstance ; the fact that he was 
sick before the meal and after a lengthy drive proves that we 
have to do with a result not of intemperance but of neivoi 
irritation." Of such "sudden indispositions arising from 
nervousness we, however, hear nothing, either during that year 
or for long after. None of the sources mention anything c 
kind. On the contrary, at Whitsun, 1523, Luther wrote to 
Nicholas Hausmann that he felt "fairly well" (""**" 
valeo ") that he was of a nervous temperament is of course true, 
but that the morning hours were, as a rule, his worst we only 
begin to learn from hS letters in 1530 and 1532 ; there, moreover 
he does not mention sickness, but merely giddiness and toe 
attacks of Satan," which were wont to come on him 1 
breakfast, ("pmncZmm," 2 a meal taken about 9 or 1 ) a ,m . . 
Melanchthon s story speaks, however not of the morning at , 
but of the time before the " coena " (i.e. the prmcipal meal 
taken about 5 p.m.), when Luther was presumably no longei 

f a Stilf, it would be better not to lay too much stress on this 
isolated particular incident. 3 , 

Next in the series of statements coming from preachers 
new Evangel, we meet that of Johann Agncola, who, according 

i " Briefwechsel," 4, p. 96. 

"Sewtaest has agones (^ mental struggles or temptat 1O ns) * /? t 
magna debilitas ; access* etiam crwdt/ew, quam vigiliae, vormti 
caetera incommoda multa auxerunt" 


to Thiele, in the recently discovered notes of his (above, p. 216), 
when he had already separated from Luther, represents him as 
a " drunken profligate," " who gave the rein to his passions and 
whom only his wife s sway could influence for good." Agricola 
says that Luther had contemptuously put aside certain letters 
of his, but " at last read them one morning before the wine had 
mounted to his head ( mane, nondum vino calefactus ). Then 
he showed himself willing to take me into favour again " ; this 
being the result of Katey s intercession. 

After this we have the testimony of the Swiss theologian, Leo 
Judse, who, as Kolde tells us, 1 in the letter to Bucer quoted 
above (p. 277) and dated April 24, 1534, "reproaches Luther 
with drunkenness and all manner of things, and declares that 
such a bishop he would not tolerate even in the tiniest diocese." 

Valentine Ickelsamer, in 1525, voices the " fanatics," whom 
Luther was attacking so vigorously, in his complaint, that the 
latter was " careless and heedless amidst all our needs, and 
spent his time in utter unconcern with the beer-swillers " ; before 
this he had already said : "I am well acquainted with your 
behaviour, having been for a while a student at Wittenberg ; I 
will, however, say nothing of your gold finger-ring, which gives 
scandal to so many people, or of the pleasant room overlooking 
the water where you drink and make merry with the other 
doctors and gentlemen." 2 Neither Ickelsamer nor his friends 
formulate against Luther any explicit charge of startling or 
habitual excess. His daily habits, as just depicted, seemed to 
them to be at variance with his claim to being a divinely appointed 
preacher, called to raise mankind to higher things, but this was 
chiefly on account of their own peculiar narrow mysticism. It 
was from the same standpoint that, wishing to absolve himself 
from the charge of " inciting to rebellion," Thomas Miinzer, in 
1524, writes in his " Schutzrede " 3 against the " witless, wanton 
lump of flesh at Wittenberg," also twitting Luther with his 
"luxurious living" (vol. ii., p. 131), i.e. the daintiness of his 

With regard to Simon Lemnius, it will suffice to refer to the 
passage already adduced (p. 274) : " Luther boasts of being 
an evangelical bishop ; how then comes it that he lives so far 
from temperately, being wont to surfeit himself with food and 
drink ? " It is unnecessary to repeat how much caution must 
be exercised in appealing to this writer s statements. 

Among Catholic critics the first place is taken by the theologian, 
Ambrosius Catharinus, an Italian who lived far from Germany. 
His statement regarding Luther s dancing and drinking has 
already been given (p. 276). This, together with many other of 

1 The context is unfortunately not given by Kolde, no more here 
than in the case of Musculus. A copy of the letter is, he says, found in 
the Baum Thesaurus of the Strasburg University Library. 

" Clag etlicher Briider," etc., ed. Enders (" Neudrucke deutscher 
Literaturwerke," No. 118, 1893), p. 48. 

A " Hochverursachte Schutzrede," etc., ed. Enders, ibid., p. 18 ff. 


his strictures 1 on Luther s teaching and work, were collected by 
Cochlgeus. Catharinus was present at the Council of Trent from 
1546-1547 and such reports as these may there have reached 
his ears. That Luther danced, or as Catharinus says, even led 
the dances, is not vouched for in any source. Only concerning 
Melanchthon have we a credible report, that he " sometimes 
danced." On the other hand, we do know that Luther was 
frequently present at balls, weddings, christenings and other 
such occasions when food and drink were to be had in plenty. So 
distinguished and pleasant a guest was naturally much in 
demand, as Luther himself tells us on several occasions. 

Luther s letter to Spalatin, on January 14, 1524, concerning 
the (real or imaginary) agent sent by King Ferdinand to enquire 
into his life at Wittenberg, also speaks of the report carried to 
Court of his intercourse with women and habits of drunkenness 
(vol. ii., p. 132 f.). 

Shortly before, in 1522, Count Hoyer of Mansfeld, a Catholic, 
wrote in a letter to Count Ulrich of Helfenstein, brought to light 
by a Protestant historian, " that Luther was a thorough scoundrel, 
who drank deeply, as was the custom at Mansfeld, played the lute, 
etc." (vol. ii., p. 131). If, as we find recounted elsewhere, Luther, 
on his journey to the Diet, and at Worms itself, partook freely 
of the costly wines in which his enthusiastic friends pledged him, 
this was, after all, no great crime. It is probable, however, that 
some worse tales to Luther s discredit in this matter of drinking 
had come to Hoyer s ear. 

At the time of the Diet of Worms, Aleander, the Papal Legate 
there present, indeed writes that Luther was " addicted to 
drunkenness," 2 but the credulous diplomat probably trusted to 
what he heard from parties hostile to Luther and little acquainted 
with him. (See vol. ii., p. 78 f.) It is also a fact that, to Italians 
imbued with the idea that the Germans were drunkards, even 
quite moderate drinking might seem scandalous. 

Cochlseus says of Luther in 1524 : " According to what I hear, 
in his excessive indulgence in beer, Luther is worse than a 
debauchee." 3 Here again we have merely an echo of statements 
made by strangers, albeit in this instance stronger and more 
positive. Less weight is to be attached to the account of Jacob 
Ziegler of Landau, who writes from Rome to Erasmus on 
February 16, 1522, that there Luther was regarded as " given to 
fornication and tippling," adding that he was considered as the 
precursor of Antichrist. 4 Of the inhabitants of Wittenberg 
generally Ulrich Zasius complains, in a letter of December 21, 

1 " De consideratione praesentium temporum," Venetiis, 1547. 
Cochl^eus s " De persena et doctrina M. Lutheri indicium fratris 
A. Catharini," etc., Moguntiae, 1548, gives the words on fol. C. 2a. 

2 Brieger, " Aleander und Luther," p. 170 ; " alia quale (ebrieta) & 

3 " Helluone in crapula et ebrietate cervisiaria, ut audio, foedior." 

4 Cp. " Archiv fur Reformationsgesch.," " Texte und Untersuch- 
ungen," 3 Jahrg., Hft. 1, p. 79, article by P. Kalkoff, " Romische Urteilo 
iiber Luther und Erasmus im Jahre 1521." See our vol. ii., p. 133. 


1521, to Thomas Blaurer, that it was reported they ran almost 
daily to communion but afterwards swilled beer to such an extent 
that they were unable to recognise each other. 1 To his other 
charges against the life led there and against the heads of the 
movement, Blaurer replied, but, curiously enough, the complaint 
of drunkenness he does not even refer to. 2 From the detailed 
description given by a Catholic Canon of Wittenberg on Decem 
ber 29, 1521, we do, however, learn that the greatest abuses 
prevailed in connection with the Supper, and that some even 
communicated who had previously been indulging in brandy. 3 

The last witness had no thins; to say of Luther personally. On 
the other hand, another does state that, the night before his death, 
he was "plane obrutus potu." This, however, comes from a 
later writer, who lived far away and has shown himself otherwise 
untrustworthy. 4 

Another less unreliable report also has to do with Luther s 
death-bed. Johann Landau, the Mansfeld apothecary, who was 
a Catholic, and had occasion to handle Luther s corpse, left the 
following in the notes he made : "In consequence of excessive 
eating and drinking the body was full of corrupt juices," Luther 
had " exceeded in the use of sweet foreign wines." " It is said," 
he continues, " that he drank every day at noon and in the 
evening a sextar of rich foreign wine." 5 This statement does not 
appear to be restricted to the last days of Luther s life, which 
were spent with Count Mansfeld. It is well known that Luther 
died after a meal. What amount the " sextar " and the " stueb- 
chen," to be mentioned immediately, represented has not yet 
been determined, as the measures differed so much in various 
parts of the country. The sextar, according to G. Agricola, was 
usually a quarter of the stuebchen, as, according to him, twenty- 
four sextars or six stuebchen went to one amphora ; the sextar 
itself contained four gills." 6 In a letter of Luther s, dating from 
the period of his stay at Mansfeld, we find the following : " We 
live well here," he writes to Katey, " and the council allows me 
for each meal half a gallon of excellent Rheinfall. Sometimes I 
drink it with my companions. The wine produced here is also 
good and the Naumburg beer quite capital." 7 Rheinfall (more 
correctly Reinfal) was a southern wine then highly prized. 8 
Luther, as a rule, preferred to keep to Naumburg beer. 9 

1 " Briefwechsel der Briider Ambrosius und Thomas Blaurer," ], 
1908, p. 43 ; " Tui Wittenbergenses velut quotidie communicant et mox 
cerevisia inebriantur, ut sese aliquando non cognoscant, ita enimferlur." 

2 Ibid., pp. 58-68. 3 Barge, " Karlstadt," 2, p. 558. 

4 Heiir. Sedulius, O.S.F., " Praescriptiones adv. haereses," Antwerp, 
1606, p. 210. It was he who published the false document concerning 
Luther s alleged suicide (see vol. vi., xxxix. 3). 

5 Paulus, " Luthers Lebensende," 1898, p. 70. 

6 " De mensuris," Basileae, 1550, pp. 4, 338. 

7 Luther to Katey, February 7, 1546, Letters, ed. De Wette, 5, 
p 788. 8 Grimm, " Deutsches Worterbuch," 8. p. 700. 

9 Cp. the letter addressed to Katey on February 1, 1546, p. 786 : 
J drink Neunburgish beer." 


Luther s Own Comments on the " Good Drink." 

The following statements of Luther s concerning his 
indulgence in spirituous liquors are especially noteworthy ; 
of these some have been quoted without sufficient attention 
being paid to their real meaning. 

" Know that all goes well with me here," Luther writes 
in 1540 from Weimar to his Katey, who was anxious about 
him ; "I feed like a Bohemian, and swill like a German, 
for which God be thanked, Amen." 1 Soon after he repeats, 
in a letter to the same addressee, the phrase whrch has since 
grown famous, this time in a slightly amended form : 
Know " that we arc well and cheerful here, thanks be to 
God ; we feed like Bohemians, though not too much, and 
swill like Germans, not deeply but with jollity."- He is 
fond of thus speaking of his " feeding and swilling," though, 
such expressions being less unconventional then than now, 
stress must not be laid on them. In both letters he was 
clearly seeking by his jests to reassure his wife, who was 
concerned for his health. During his last weeks at Eislcben 
he also wrote to Katey : " We have plenty on which to feed 
and swill." 3 

" If the Lord God holds me excused," he says in a famous 
utterance in the Table-Talk, " for having plagued Him for 
quite twenty years by celebrating Mass, He assuredly will 
excuse me for sometimes indulging in a drink to His 
honour ; God grant it and let the world take it as it will." 4 

Of the last decade of Luther s life his pupil Mathesius 
relates, that, in the evening, " if not inclined for sleep, he 
had to take a draught to promote it, often making excuse 
for so doing : You young fellows must not mind if our 
Elector and an old chap like me take a generous drink ; we 
have to try and find our pillow and our bolster in the 
tankard. " 5 The same witness relates another utterance of 
about the same time : "He came home from a party and 

1 On July 2, 1540, " Briofwechsol," ed. Burkhardt, p. 357. 

2 On July 16, 1540, Letters, cd. Do Wette, 5, p. 298. De Wette s 
edition of this letter is not altogether trustworthy. Cp. Burkhardt, 
" Brief e Luthers," p. 358. 

3 On February 6, 1546, ibid., p. 786. 

4 From the written notes of Veit Dietrich (the "most reliable 
authority on the Table-Talk"), see Kdstlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 498. Cp. 
a parallel passage in " Werke," Erl. ed., 57, p. 135. 

5 Mathesius, "Historien/ 5 1566, p. 151. 



drank the health of a guest : I must make merry to-day, 
for I have received bad tidings ; for this there is no better 
cure than a fervent Paternoster and a brave heart. For 
the demon of melancholy is much put out when a man 
insists upon being merry. 5?1 

Here we have two reasons, want of sleep and depression 
resulting from bad news, which induced him to have a 
" good drink." A third reason was furnished by his tempta 
tions to doubt and vacillate in faith. The " good drink " 
must not, however, be too deep as it " recently was at the 
Electoral couchce at Torgau, where, not satisfied with the 
usual measures, they pledged each other in half-gallon cans. 
That they called a good drink. Sic inventa lege inventa 
est etfraus legist 2 

Luther s advice to his pupil Hieronymus Weller, when the 
latter was tempted and troubled, as stated above (p. 175), 
was to follow his example and " to drink deeper and jest more 
freely," and to answer the devil when he objected to such 
drinking, that " he would drink all the more because he 
forbade it " ; he himself (Luther), for no other reason, was 
wont to drink more deeply and talk more freely than to 
scorn the devil by his " hard drinking." 3 " When troubled 
with gloomy thoughts," he declared on another occasion, 
it was his habit " to have a good pull at the beer " ; Me- 
lanchthon had a different sort of remedy, viz. consulting 
the stars ; Luther, however, considered his practice the 
better one. 4 

These and such-likc utterances circulated far and wide, 
often in a highly exaggerated form, and Luther had only 
himself to thank if many Catholics, on the strength of them, 
came to regard him as a regular drunkard. This impression 
was in no way diminished by the rough humour which 
accompanied his talk of eating and drinking. People then 
were perfectly acquainted with the fact that the Table-Talk 
was regarded, even by some enthusiastic Lutherans, as only 
a half revelation, the truth being that they did not make 
sufficient allowance for Luther s vein of humour and 

It was, however, quite seriously that Luther spoke in 

1 Mathesius, "Historian," 1566, p. 152. 
" Werke," Erl. ed., 62, p. 451 (" Tischrcdcn "). 

3 Letter of 1530 (July ?), " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 159 seq. 

4 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 516, from Veit Dietrich s MS. 


August, 1540, when the excessive drinking of the miners 
was discussed at table : " It is not well," he said, " but if 
they work hard for the rest of the week, then we must allow 
them some relaxation (at the week-end). Their work is 
hard and very dangerous and some allowance must be made 
for the custom of the country. I, too, have an occasional 
tipple, but not everybody must follow my example, for not 
all have the work to do that I have." 1 Here, accordingly, 
we have a fourth reason alleged in excuse of his drinking, 
possibly the most usual and practical one, viz. his fatiguing 
work. In May of the same year he expressed his opinion 
of the extent to which drinking might be allowable in 
certain circles ; this he did because he had been accused of 
not reproving drunkenness at the Court : "On the con 
trary," he says, " I have spoken strongly about it before 
the whole Court ; truly I spoke forcibly and severely to the 
nobles, reproaching them with tempting and corrupting the 
Prince. This greatly pleased the old gentleman [the Elector 
Johann], for he lived temperately. . . . I said to the nobles : 
You ought to employ yourselves after dinner in the 
Palrcstra or in some other good exercise, after which you, 
might have a good drink, for drinking is permissible, but 
drunkenness never (ebrietas est ferenda, sed ebriositas 
minime). " 2 " Cheerful people," he said in May or June, 
" may sometimes indulge more freely in wine," but if 
drinking makes a man angry, he must avoid it like " poison." 
These words were meant for his nephew, Hans Polner, who 
was in the habit of returning to Luther s house much the 
worse for drink. With him Luther was very wroth : "On 
your account I am ill-spoken of by foreigners. My foes 
spy out everything that goes on about me. . . . When you 
do some mischief while drunk, you forget what shame you 
are bringing not only upon me and on my house, but on the 
town, the Church and the Evangel. Others after a drinking- 

1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 185. 

2 Ibid., p. 95. Cp. Mathesius s notes in Loesche, " Analecta 
Lutherana et Melanthoniana," p. 100 : " Then I would permit you a 
good drink ; nam ebrietudo est ferenda, non ebriositas" Forcellini s 
definition: " ebriositas = propensio in ebrictatem." According to 
Loesche, Luther himself invented the word " ebrietudo." Luther says 
of the Elector Johann Frederick in his work, " Wider Hans Worst " : 
" Sometimes he takes a drink too much, which we are sorry to see," 
but it was untrue that he was " a drunkard and led a disorderly life " 
(" Werke," Erl. ed., 26 2 , p. 74). 


bout are merry and friendly ; such was the case with my 
father ; they simply sing and jest ; but you, you fly into a 
rage." 1 

Luther, when preaching to the people, often denounced 
the prevalent habit of drinking, a circumstance which must 
not be overlooked when passing judgment upon him. The 
German vice of drunkenness which he saw increasing around 
him in the most alarming manner caused him such distress, 
that he exclaimed in one of his postils : " Our poor German 
land is chastised and plagued with this devil of drink, and 
altogether drowned in this vice, so that life and limb, 
possessions and honour, arc shamefully lost while people 
lead the life of swine, so that, had we to depict Germany, we 
should have to show it under the image of a sow." 2 Only 
" the little children, virgins and women " were exempt from 
the malady ; " unless God strikes at this vice by a national 
calamity everything will go down to the abyss, all sodden 
through and through with drink." 3 Was this the way to be 
grateful " to the light of the Evangel " which had burst 
upon Germany ? 4 His question shows that he was speaking 
primarily of the conditions prevailing under the new Evangel. 
Looking back on the Catholic past he has perforce to admit, 
that, although this vice was by no means unknown then, yet 
i; I remember that when I was young it [drunkenness] was 
looked upon by the nobility as a great shame, and that worthy 
gentry and Princes sought to combat it by wise prohibitions 
and penalties ; but now it is even worse and more prevalent 
amongst them than amongst the peasants ; so far has it 
come that even Princes and men of gentle birth learn it 
from their squires, and are not ashamed of it ; it is regarded 
as honourable and quite a virtue by Princes, nobles and 
burghers, so that whosoever refuses to become a sodden 
brute is despised." 5 

In powerful passages such as these he assails the vice 
from both the natural and the supernatural standpoint. 
Yet his chief complaint is not so much its existence as its 
appalling extent ; his reproofs are intended for those who 
" get drunk daily," for those " maddened and sodden with 
drink," for those who " day and night are ever pouring the 

1 Mathesius, "Tischreden," p. 141. 

2 " Werke." Eii. ed., 8 2 , p. 294. 3 Ibid., pp. 294, 296 
4 Ibid., p. 297 ; cp. p. 292. 5 Ibid., p. 293. 


liquor down their throats." He expressly states that he is 
willing to be lenient in cases where a man is drunk only now 
and again. " It may be borne with and overlooked," he 
says in the sermon quoted, " if from time to time a person 
by mistake takes a glass v too much, or, after being exhausted 
by labour and toil, gets a little the worse for drink." 1 

In 1534, in an exposition of Psalm ci., where he describes 
the doings of the " Secular Estate," he is no less hopeless 
concerning this plague which afflicts Germany : " Every 
country must have its own devil ; our German devil is a 
good skin of wine and surely his name is Swill " ; until the 
last day eternal thirst would remain the German s curse ; 
it was quite useless to seek to remedy matters, Swill still 
remained the all-powerful god. 2 More dignified language 
would assuredly have been better in place here and else 
where where he deals with this subject. For quaint homeli 
ness it would, however, be hard to beat him ; referring to 
their drinking habits, he tells the great men at the Court : 
" In the morning you really look as though your heads had 
been pickled in brine." 3 Yet, from the very passage in the 
Table-Talk where this is recounted, we learn that he said 
to the guests, again in a far too indulgent strain : " The Lord 
God must account the drunkenness of us Germans a mere 
daily [i.e. venial] sin, for we arc unable to give it up ; never 
theless, it is a shameful curse, harmful alike to body, soul 
and property." 

Witnesses to Luther s Temperate Habits. 
Within Luther s camp the chief witnesses to his temperate 
habits are Melanchthon and Mathcsius. 

Melanchthon in his formal panegyric on the deceased says, 
that " though a stout man, he was very moderate in eating and 
drinking ( natura valde modici cibi et potus ). I have seen him, 
when quite in good health, abstaining entirely from food and 
drink for four clays. At other times I frequently saw him content 
himself for many days with a little bread with kippers." 4 His 
four days abstinence, however, probably coincided with one of 
his attacks " temptations," which, as we know from Ratze- 
berger, his medical adviser, were usually accompanied by 
intense dislike for food. Besides, before his marriage, Luther 

i " Werke," Erl. eel., 8 2 , p. 295. 2 Ibid., 39, p. 353. 

3 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 95. 

4 "Vita Lutheri " (" Viice quatuor reformatorum," ed. A. T. 
Neander (n. 5, p. 5). 


had not the same attention and care he received later from his 
wife. It is not unlikely that Melanchthon was thinking of this 
period when he speaks of the " bread and kippers," for the 
passage really refers to the beginning of his acquaintanceship 
with Luther, possibly even to his monastic days. However this 
may be, we must not forget that the clause is part of a panegyric. 
Mathesius, Luther s attentive pupil and admirer, says of him 
in his sermons, that Luther, " although he was somewhat 
corpulent, ate and drank little and rarely anything out of the 
common, but contented himself with ordinary food. In the 
evening, if not inclined to sleep, he had to take a draught to 
promote it, often making excuse for so doing." 1 

That Luther was perfectly content " without anything 
out of the common " is confirmed by other writers, and 
concerning the general frugality of his household there can 
be no question. In this respect we may well believe what 
Mathesius says, for he was a regular attendant at Luther s 
evening table in the forties of the century. His assertion 
that Luther " drank but little " must, however, be con 
sidered in the light of other of his statements. 

What Mathesius thought of the " sleeping-draught " and 
the feasts at which, so he relates, Luther assisted from 
time to time, appears from a discourse incorporated by him 
in his " Wedding-sermons." Here he speaks of the " noble 
juice of the grape and how AVC can make use of it in a godly 
fashion and with a good conscience " ; he is simply the 
mouthpiece of Luther. Like Luther, he condemns gluttony 
and " bestial drunkenness," but is so indulgent in the 
matter of cheerful carousing that a Protestant Canon in the 
eighteenth century declared, that Mathesius had gone 
astray in his sermon on the use of wine. 2 Mathesius says 
that we must have " a certain amount of patience " with 
those who sometimes, for some quite valid reason, " get a 
little tipsy," or " kick over the traces," provided they 
" don t do so every day " and that " the next morning they 
are heartily sorry for it " ; the learned were quite right in 
distinguishing between " ebriositas " and " cbrietas " ; if a 
ruling Prince had worked industriously all day, or a scholar 
had " read and studied till his head swam," such busy and 
much-tired people, if they chose " in the evening to drink 

1 " Historien," 1566, p. 151. Then follows the passage referred to 
on p. 305 concerning Luther and the Elector. 

2 See Loesche s Introduction to the edition mentioned in the 
following note. 


away their cares and heavy thoughts, must be permitted 
some over-indulgence, particularly if it does not hinder them 
in the morning from praying, studying and working." 1 

This is the exact counterpart of Luther s theory and 
practice as already described, in the distinction made 
between " ebriosita-s " and " ebrietas" in the statement that 
drunkenness is no more than a venial sin, in the unseemly 
and jocose tone employed when speaking of tipsiness, and 
in the license accorded those who (like Luther) had much 
work to do, or (again, like Luther), were plagued with 
" gloomy thoughts." The other conditions are also note 
worthy, viz. that it must not be of " daily occurrence " and 
that the offender must afterwards be " heartily sorry " ; 
in such a case we must be tolerant. All this agrees with 
Luther s own teaching. 

Such passages, coming from the master and his devoted 
disciple, must be taken as the foundation on which to base 
our judgment. Such general statements of principle must 
carry more weight than isolated instances of Luther s actual 
practice, more even than the various testimonies con 
sidered above. In the eyes of the impartial historian, more 
over, the various elements will be seen to fit into each other 
so as to form a whole, the elements being on the one hand 
the highly questionable principle we have just heard 
expressed, and on the other his own admissions concerning 
his practice, supplemented by the testimony of outsiders. 

In the first place, there is no doubt that his theory was 
dangerously lax. We need only call to mind the string of 
reasons given in vindication of a " good drink " and mere 
" ebrietas." Such excuses were not only insufficient but 
might easily be adduced daily in ever-increasing number. 
Luther s limitation of the permission to occasional bouis, 
etc., was altogether illusory and constituted no real barrier 
against excess. How could such theories, we may well ask, 
promote temperance and self-denial ? Instead of resisting 
the lower impulses of nature they give the reins to license. 

1 G. Mathesius, " Hochzeitspredigten," ed. Loesche, Prague, 1897 
(" Bibliothek deutscher Schriftsteller aus Bohmen," Bd. 6). 
sermon in question was delivered in a castle in 1553 (pp. 311-335). 
Loesche says of the same : "It is not necessary to be a rabid teetotaller 
to feel that Urbanus from the title of the sermon treads dangerous 
ground, and would to-day be considered quite scandalously lax." 
Cp. N. P[aulus] in the Koln. Volksztng., 1904, No. 623: on Luther s 
admission " I also tipple." 


They are part and parcel of the phenomenon so noticeable 
in early Lutheranism, where Christian endeavour, owing 
to the discredit with which penance and good works were 
overwhelmed, was not allowed to rise above the level of 
ordinary life, and indeed often failed to attain even to this 
standard. How different sound the injunctions of Christ 
and His Apostles to the devoted followers of the true 
Gospel : Take up thy cross ; resist the flesh and all its lusts : 
be sober and watch. 

The result as regards Luther s practice must on the whole 
be considered as unfavourable, though it is not of course 
so well known to us as his theory. It may also, quite pos 
sibly, have varied at different periods of his life, for instance, 
may not have been the same when Mathesius was acquainted 
with him, i.e. when his mode of life had become more 
regular, as when Count Hoyer of Mansfeld wrote so scorn 
fully after the Diet of Worms. Nevertheless, Luther s 
vigorous denunciation of habitual drunkenness on the one 
hand, and the extraordinary amount of work he contrived 
to get through on the other, also the absence of any very 
damaging or definite charge by those who had every oppor 
tunity of observing him at AVittenbcrg, for instance, the 
hostile Anabaptists and other "sectarians," all this leads 
us to infer, that he availed himself of his theories only to 
a very limited extent. His own statements, however, as 
well as those of his friends and opponents, enable us to see 
that his lax principle, " ebrietas est ferenda.," was not with 
out its effects upon his habits of life. The allegation of his 
joy of living, and his healthy love of the things of sense 
does not avail to explain away his own admissions, nor 
what others laid to his charge. The worst of it is, that we 
gam the impression that the lax theory was conceived to 
suit his own case, for all the reasons which he held to excuse 
good drink" and the subsequent "ebrietas" were 
present in his case depression caused by bad news, cares 
and gloomy thoughts, pressure of work, temptations to 
sadness and doubts, sleeplessness and mental exhaustion. 

From the Cellar and the Tap-Room. 

The task remains of considering certain further traits in 
Luther s life with regard to his indulgence in drinking. 
During the first part of his public career Luther himself 


speaks of the temptation to excessive eating and drinking 
and other bad habits to which he was exposed. This he did 
in 1519 in his remarkably frank confession to his superior 
Staupitz.i 1Ierc the expression " crapula " must be taken 
more seriously than on another occasion when, in a letter to 
a friend written from the Wartburg in the midst of his 
arduous labours, he describes himself as " sitting idle, and 
crdpulosus. " 2 

After Luther s marriage, when he had settled down 
comfortably in the Black Monastery, it was Catherine, who, 
agreeably with the then custom, brewed the beer at home. 
It seems, however, to have been of inferior quality, indeed not 
fit to set before his guests. That he had several sorts of 
wine in his cellar we learn on the occasion of the marriage 
of his niece Lena in 1538. He complains that in Germany 
it was very hard to buy " a really trustworthy drink," as 
even the carriers adulterated the wines on the way. 3 

As already stated, beer w^as his usual drink. Whilst he 
was " drinking Wittenberg beer with Philip and Amsdorf," 
he said as early as 1522, in a well-known passage, the 
Papacy had been weakened through the Word of God " 
which he had preached. 4 

It was, however, with wine that on great occasions the 
ample " Catechismusglas " (see above, p. 219) was filled. 5 
How much this bowl contained which Luther, though not 
his guest Agrieola, could empty at one draught, has not 
been determined, though illustrations of it were thought to 
exist. Agricola s statement concerning his vain attempt 
to drain it leads us to conclude that the famous glass was 
of considerable size. It impresses one strangely to learn 
that Luther occasionally toasted his guests in a crystal beaker 

1 Letter of February 20, 1510, " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 431 : " rx- 
positus ct involutus . . . crapulae" Cp. our vol. i., p. 368. Luther 
uses the word " crapidatus " in the sense of " ebrius, Werke, Weim. 
cd 3, pp. 559 and 596. In the larger Commentary on Galatians, how 
ever, a distinction is made between " ebrietas " and " crapula," 3, pp. 
47 and 53 cp. the smaller Commentary (1519), Weim. cd., 2, p. 591 

" Commessatio, quae Lc. xxi. 34 [crapula] dicitur ; sicut ebrietas mini urn 
bibendo, ita crapula nimiuin comedendo gravat corda." 

2 To Spalatirt, May 14, 1521, " Brief wechsel," 3, p. 154. Cp. o 
vol. ii., pp. 82, 87, 94. 

3 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 497. 4 See above, p. 2K 

5 "Werke," Erl. ed., 58, p. 337 (" Tischreden ") : "A glass with 
three ridges . . . down to the first the Ten Commandments, down t< 
the second the Creed, the third with the [Our Father of the] Catechism 
in full." 


reputed to have once belonged to St. Elizabeth of Hungry ; 
this too, no doubt, passed from hand to hand. 1 

An example of Luther s accustomed outspokenness was 
witnessed by some of those who happened to be present on 
the arrival of a Christmas gift of wine in 1538. The cask 
came from the Margrave of Brandenburg and, to the intense 
disappointment of the recipient, contained Franconian wine. 
Luther, m spite of the importance of the gift, made no 
secret of his annoyance, and his complaints would appear 
to have duly reached the ear of the Margrave. In order 
to efface the bad impression made at Court, Luther was 
obliged to send a letter of excuse to Sebastian Heller, the 
Chancellor. Therein he says he had been quite unaware of 
the excellence of Franconian wine, and, " like the bio- fool " 
he was, had not known that the inhabitants of Franconia 
were so fortunate in their wine as now, after tasting it he 
had ascertained to be the case. In future he was going to 
stick to Franconian wine ; to the Prince he sent his best 
thanks and trusted he would take nothing amiss. 2 From 
the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, after he had forwarded him 
us memorandum regarding his bigamy, he received a 
hogshead of Rhine wine. 3 In the same year he received 
from the Town Council of Wittenberg a present of a gallon 
of Franconian " and four quarts of Gutterbogk wine " on 
the^occasion of the marriage of his niece, mentioned above. 
From the magistrates, in addition to other presents 
came frequent gifts of liquor for himself and his guests, of 
which we find the entries since 1519 recorded in the Town- 

Only recently has attention been drawn to this. 4 
In 1525 we find the following items : "7 Gulden for six 
cans of Franconian wine at 14 Groschen the quart presented 

Leb- - G ttes Dr M Luther s merkwiirdig 

Ltte ^ ? 3 , Lei P zl & 1764, p. 156 f. He considers that the 
latter statements in the text were " inventions " ; at any rate " there 

T the a " er toelf," and the " conclusion of the Papists 

that Luther was a drunkard " were therefore false. Kostlin-Kawerau 
~, p. 510. On the famous but almost legendary " Luther-beakers," F 

7* nm 7^ 7 e Q r AT^ an l article with interesting sketches in the "III 
/.eitung, 1879, November 1. 

2 Letter of May 12, 1532, " Brief wechsel," 11, p. 359: " Fateor 
culpam meam et conscius mihi sum, effudisse me verba" etc 

" Evangelisch-kirchl. Anzeiger," Berlin, 1904, p. 70 f. 


Doctori Martino on his engagement ; 136 Gulden, 6 Groschen 
for a barrel of Einbcck beer presented Doctori Martino 
for his wedding ; 440 Gulden Doctori Martino for wine 
and beer presented by the Council and the town on the 
occasion of his nuptials and wedding. Fine of 120 Gulden 
paid by Clara, wedded wife of Lorenz Eberhard dwelling 
at Jessen for abusive language concerning Doctor Martin 
and his honourable wife, and also for abusing the Pastor s 
[Bugenhagen] wife at Master Lubeck s wedding; 13G 
Gulden, 2 Groschen for wine sent for during the year by 
Doctor Martin from the town vaults and paid for by the 
Council." In addition to the various " presents " made 
the Council, we meet repeatedly in other years with items 
recording deliveries of beer or wine which Luther had sent 
for from the town cellar. These are entered as " owing. . . . 
The Council loath to sue him for them. . " And again, 
" allowed to Doctor Martin this year. ..." 

This explains the low items for liquor in Luther s own list of 
household expenses, which were frequently quoted in proof of 
his exceptional abstemiousness. As a matter of fact, they an 
so small simply owing to the presents and to his requisition 
on the town cellars, for much of which he never paid, 
pfennigs daily for drink " we read in his household accounts 
in a Gotha MS., the date of which is uncertain. 1 Seeing that 
at Wittenberg a can of beer cost 3 pfennigs, this would 
allow him very little. According to another entry Katey 
required 56 pfennigs weekly for making the beer; the 
date of this is equally uncertain. It is to the 
devotion of Protestant researchers that we owe 
information. 2 

Luther was in a particularly cheerful mood when he wrc 
on March 18, 1535, the letter, already quoted (p. 296 1. ), 
his friend Caspar Mullcr, the Mansfeld Chancellor at EisL 
The letter is to some extent a humorous one, but is it ret 
a fact that in the last of the three signatures appended ac 
qualifies himself as " Doctor plums " ? 3 According t 
controversialists such is the case. 

It is true that Deniiic says of this signature, now preserve 
with the letter in the Vatican Library, 4 " that the badly 

1 " Farrago," etc., cod. chart, Goth., 402, Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, 
p. 681, n. 498. 

2 " Evangelisch-kirchl. Anzeiger, ibid. 

3 " Briefwechsel," 10, p. 137. * Cod. Ottobon., n. 3029. 


written and scarcely legible word . . . either reads or might 
be read as plenus. "* According to R. Ileitzenstein, on the 
other hand, who also studied them, the characters cannot 
possibly be read thus. E. Thiclc, who mentions this, sug 
gests 2 that perhaps we might read it as " Doctor Hans," 
and that the signature in question might refer to Luther s 
little son who was with him and whose greetings with those 
of the mother Luther sends at the end of the letter to 
Miiller, who was the child s godfather. 

First comes the legible signature " Doctor Martinus " in 
Luther s handwriting ; below this, also quite legible, stands 
"Doctor Luther," possibly denoting his wife, as Thiele 
very reasonably conjectures ; finally we have the question 
able "Doctor plenus." To read "Hans" instead of 
"plenus,"^ is, according to Denifle, "quite out of the 
question," as I also found when I came to examine the 
facsimile published by G. Evers in 1883. 3 On the other 
hand, to judge by the facsimile, it appeared to me that 
" Johannes " might possibly be the true reading, and the 
Latin form also seemed to agree with that of the previous 
signatures. When I was able to examine the original in 
Home in May, 1907, I convinced myself that, as a matter 
of fact, the badly formed and intertwined characters could 
be read as " Johannes " ; this reading was also confirmed 
by Alfredo Monaci, the palseologist. 4 Hence the reading 
" Doctor plenus," too confidently introduced by Evers and 
repeated by Enders, though with a query, in his edition of 
Luther s letters, may safely be consigned to oblivion. Even 

- 77 > - * 
was the 

4 W- Walther (" Theol. Literaturblatt," 1906, p. 473), on the 
strength of a photograph, now declares " Johannes " to be " the most 
!< .. y /Deling, and rightly excludes "plenus" on p. 586 of his book 
;; Fur Luther. H. Bohmer (" Luther,"*, p. 116) is also in favour of 

Johannes G Kawerau for his part thought, judging from the 
photograph that plures might be read instead of "plenua," in 
which Js Midler agrees with him ; he could not, however, understand 
what plures meant here. " Studien und Kritiken," 1908, p 603 
On re-examination of the original I was forced to decide against 
"Pfares. K. Loffler ("Hist. Jahrb.," 30, 1909, p. 317) proposes 

Doctor parvus, but this is excluded by the characters, though the 
sense would be reasonable enough. " Johannes " may quite well be the 
reading, since from 1527 Luther was in the habit of adding greetings 
from Katey and Hans in his letter* 


had it been correct, it would merely have afforded a fresh 
example of Luther s jokes at his own expense, and would 
not necessarily have proved that his mirth was due to 
spirituous influence. 

In one letter of Luther s, which speaks of the time he 
passed in the Castle of Coburg, we hear more of the dis 
agreeable than of the cheering effects of wine. 

" I have brought on headache by drinking old wine in the 
Coburg," he complains to his friend Wenceslaus Link, " and 
this our Wittenberg beer has not yet cured. I work little 
and am forced to be idle against my will because my head 
must have a rest." 1 In the Electoral accounts 25 Eimcr of 
wine are set down for the period of Luther s stay at the 
Coburg; 2 seeing that he and two companions spent only 
173 days there, our Protestant friends have hastened to 
allege " the frequent visits he received " in the Coburg. 3 
It is\ruc that he had a good many visitors during the latter 
part of his stay. However this may be, the illness showed 
itself as early as May, 1530. His own diagnosis here is no 
less unsatisfactory than the accounts concerning the other 
maladies from which he suffered. No doubt the malady 
was chiefly nervous. 

In October of that same year, Luther protested that he 
had been " very abstemious in all things " 4 at the Coburg, 
and Veil Dietrich, his assistant at that time, wrote in the 
same sense on July 4 : " I carefully observed that he did 
not transgress any of the rules of diet." 5 His indisposition 
showed itself in unbearable noises in the head, at times 
accompanied by extreme sensitiveness to light. 6 Luther 
was convinced that the trouble was due to the qualities of 
the strong wines provided for him at the castle or, possibly, 
to the devil. " We are very well off," he says in June, 1530, 
" and live finely, but for almost a month past I have been 
plagued not only with noises but with actual thundering 

1 To Link at Nuremberg, January 15, 1531, " Brief wechsel," 8, 
p. 345. 

2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 649, n. 195. Ibid. 

4 To Hans Honold at Augsburg, October 2, 1530, Werke, Erl. 
ed., 54, p. 196 (" Brief wechsel," 8, p. 275). 

5 To Aericola. Letter published by Kawerau in the Zeitschr. fur 
kirchl. Wissenschaft und kirchl. Leben," 1880, p. 50. Cp. F 
meister, " Luthers Krankengesch.," 1881, p. 67 ff. 

6 Cp. Kawerau, " Etwas vom kranken Luther " (see above, p. 299, 
n. 1), p. 308 ff. 


in my head, due, perhaps, to the wine, perhaps to the 
malice of Satan." 1 Veit Dietrich inclined strongly to the 
latter view. He tells us of the apparition of a " flaming 
fiery serpent " under which form the devil had manifested 
himself to Luther during his solitude in the Coburg : " On 
the following day he was plagued with troublesome noises 
in his head ; thus the greater part of what he suffered was 
the work of the devil." 2 Luther himself complained in August 
of a fresh indisposition, this time scarcely due to nerves, 
which, according to him, was the result either of wine, or 
of the devil. " I am troubled with a sore throat, such as I 
never had before ; possibly the strong wine has increased 
the inflammation, or perhaps it is a buffet of Satan [2 Cor. 
xii. 7]." 3 Four days later he wrote again : " My head still 
buzzes and my throat is worse than ever." 4 In the following 
month some improvement showed itself, and even before 
this he had days free from suffering ; still, after quitting 
the Coburg, he still complained of incessant headache 
caused, as he thought, by the " old wine." When all is said, 
however, it does seem that later controversialists were wrong 
in so confidently attributing his illness in the Coburg merely 
to excessive love of the bottle. 

Luther often vaunted the wholesome effects of beer. In 
a letter to Katey dated February 1, 1546, he extols the 
aperient qualities of Naumburg beer. 5 In another to Jonas, 
dated May 15, 1542, he speaks of the good that beer had 
done in relieving his sufferings from stone ; beer was to be 
preferred to wine ; much benefit was also to be derived from 
a strict diet. 6 

All these traits from Luther s private life, taken as a 
whole, may be considered to confirm the opinion expressed 
above, p. , 31 1 1 ., regarding the charges which may stand 
against him and those of which he is to be acquitted. 

1 To Gabriel Zwilling at Torgau, June 19, 1530, " Briefwechsel, 
8, p. 11. 

In the letter quoted above. 

To Melauchthon, August 24, 1530, " Brief wechsel," 8, p. 204 f. 

To Justus Jonas, August 28, 1530, ibid., p. 237. 

Letters, ed. De Wette, 5, p. 784. 

Ibid., p. 470. 



1. Melanchthon in the Service of Lutheranism, 1518-30 

WHEN Melanchthon was called upon to represent Lutheran- 
ism officially at the Diet of Augsburg, while the real head of 
the innovation remained in the seclusion of the Coburg (vol. 
ii., p. 384), he had already been in the closest spiritual 
relation with Luther for twelve years. 

The talented young man who had given promise of the 
highest achievements in the domain of humanism, and who 
had taken up his residence at Wittenberg with the intention 
of devoting his academic career more particularly to the 
Greek classics, soon fell under Luther s influence. Luther 
not only loved and admired him, but was, all along, deter 
mined to exploit, in the interests of his new theology, the 
rare gifts of a friend and colleague thirteen years his junior. 
Melanchthon not only taught the classics, but, after a 
while, announced a scries of lectures on the Epistle to Titus. 
It was clue to Luther that he thus gave himself up more 
to divinity and eventually cultivated it side by side with 
humanism. " With all his might " Luther " drove him to 
study theology." 1 Melanchthon s "Loci communes" or 
elements of theology, a scholastically conceived work on 
the main doctrines of Lutheranism, was one of the results 
of Luther s efforts to profit by the excellent gifts of the 
colleague who he was convinced had been sent him by 
Providence in formulating his theology and in demolishing 
the olden doctrine of the Church. The " Loci " proved to be 
a work of fundamental importance for Luther s cause. 2 
The character of the "Loci," at once methodic and 

1 G. Kawerau. " Luthers Stellung zu den Zeitgcnossen Erasmus, 
Zwingli urid Melanchthon " (reprinted from " Deutsch-evangel. Blatter," 
1906, lift. 1-3), p. 31. 

2 " Loci Communes Phil. Melanchthons in ihrer Urgestalt nach 
G. L. Plitt," ed. (with commentaries) Th. Kolde, 3rd ed., 1900. 



positive, indicated the lines on which Melanchthon as a 
theologian was afterwards to proceed. He invented nothing, 
his aim being rather to clothe Luther s ideas in clear, com 
prehensive and scholastic language so far as this could be 
done. His carefully chosen wording, together with his 
natural dislike for exaggeration or unnecessary harshness 
of expression, helped him in many instances so to tone down 
what was offensive in Luther s doctrines and opinions as 
to render them, in their humanistic dress, quite acceptable 
to many scholars. As a matter of fact, however, all his 
polish and graceful rhetoric often merely served to conceal 
the lack of ideas, or the contradictions. The great name he 
had won for himself in the field of humanism by his numer 
ous publications, which vied with those of Reuchlin and 

Erasmus his friends called him " pr acceptor Germaniae " 

went to enhance the importance of his theological works 
amongst those who cither sided with Luther or were 

Earlier Relations of Luther with Melanchthon. 

As professor, Melanchthon had at the outset an audience 
of from five to six hundred, and, later, his hearers numbered 
as many as 1500. He was perfectly aware that this was 
due to the renown which the University of Wittenberg had 
acquired through Luther, and the success of their common 
enterprise bound him still more closely to the ecclesiastical 
innovation. To the very end of his life he laboured in the 
interests of Lutheranism in the lecture-hall, at religious 
disputations, by his printed works, his memoranda, and his 
letters, by gaining new friends and by acting as inter 
mediary when dissension threatened. In his translation 
of the Bible Luther found a most willing and helpful 
adviser in this expert linguist. It is worthy of note that he 
never took the degree of Doctor of Divinity or showed the 
slightest desire to be made equal to his colleagues in this 
respect. Unlike the rest of his Wittenberg associates, he 
had not been an ecclesiastic previous to leaving Catholicism, 
nor would he ever consent to undertake the task of preacher 
in the Lutheran Church, or to receive Lutheran Orders, 
though for some years he, on Sundays, was wont to expound 
in Latin the Gospels to the students ; these homilies 
resulted in his Postils. When Luther at last, in 1520, 


persuaded him to marry the daughter of the Burgomaster 
of Wittenberg, he thereby succeeded in chaining to the 
scene of his own labours this valuable and industrious little 
man with all his vast treasures of learning. At the end of 
the year Melanchthon, under the pseudonym of Didymus 
Faventinus, composed his first defence of Luther, in which 
he, the Humanist, entirely vindicated against Aristotle and 
the Universities his attacks upon the rights of natural 

reason. 1 

As early as December 14, 1518, Luther, under the charm 
of his friend s talents, had spoken of him in a letter to Johann 
Reuchlin as a " wonderful man in whom almost everything 
is supernatural." 2 On September 17, 1523, he said to his 
friend Theobald Billicanus of Nordlingen : " I value Philip 
as I do myself, not to speak of the fact that he shames, nay, 
excels me by his learning and the integrity of his life ( erudi- 
tione et integritate vitae )." 3 Five years later Luther penned 
the following testimony in his favour in the Preface at the 
commencement of Melanchthon s Exposition of the Epistle 
to the Colossians (1528-29) : " He proceeds [in his writings] 
quietly and politely, digs and plants, sows and waters, 
according to the gifts which God has given him in rich 
measure " ; he himself, 011 the other hand, was " very 
stormy and pugnacious " in his works, but he was " the 
rough hewer, who has to cut out the track and prepare the 
way." 4 In the Preface to the edition of his own Latin 
works in 1545 he praises Melanchthon s " Loci " and 
classes them amongst the " methodic books " of which 
every theologian and bishop would do well to make use ; 
" how much the Lord has effected by means of this instru 
ment which He has sent me, not merely in worldly learning 
but also in theology, is demonstrated by his works." 

The extravagant praise accorded by Luther to his fellow- 
worker was returned by the other in equal measure. When 
deprived of Luther s company during the latter s involuntary 
stay at the Wartburg, he wrote as follows to a friend : 

1 " Corp ref.," 1, pp. 286-358, more particularly 343. Cp. F. 
Paulsen, " Gesch. des gelehrten Unterrichts," I 2 , 1896, p. 186 f. Further 
particulars of the work will be found amongst the statements con 
cerning Luther s relations with the schools (vol. v., xxxv. 3). 

2 " Brief wechsel," 1, p. 322. 

3 Ibid. 4, p. 230. 

4 " Werke," Weim. ed., 30, 2, p. 68 ; " Opp. lat. var., 7, p. 493. 

5 " Opp. lat. var.," 1, pp. 15. 18. 


" The torch of Israel was lighted by him, and should it be 
extinguished what hope would remain to us ? ... Ah, 
could I but purchase by my death the life of him who is at 
this time the most divine being upon earth ! 51 A little later 
he says in the same style : " Our Elias has left us ; we wait 
and hope in him. My longing for him torments me daily." 2 
Luther was not unwilling to figure as Elias and wrote to his 
friend that he (Melanchthon) excelled him in the Evangel, 
and should he himself perish, would succeed him as an 
Eliseus with twice the spirit of Elias. 

We cannot explain these strange mutual encomiums 
merely by the love of exaggeration usual with the Human 
ists. Luther as a rule did not pander to the taste of the 
Humanists, and as for Melanchthon, he really entertained 
the utmost respect and devotion for the " venerable father " 
and " most estimable doctor " until, at last, difference of 
opinion and character brought about a certain unmistak 
able coolness between the two men. 

Melanchthon, albeit with great moderation and reserve, 
never quitted the reformer s standpoint as regards either 
theory or practice. Many Catholic contemporaries were 
even of opinion that he did more harm to the Church by his 
prudence and apparent moderation than Luther by all his 
storming. His soft-spoken manner and advocacy of peace 
did not, however, hinder him from voicing with the utmost 
bitterness his hatred of everything Catholic, and his white- 
hot prejudice in favour of the innovations. He wrote, for 
instance, at the end of 1525 in an official memorandum 
(" de iure reformandi ") intended for the evangelical Princes 
and Estates that, even should " war and scandal " ensue, 
still they must not desist from the introduction and main 
tenance of the new religious system, for our cause " touches 
the honour of Christ," and the doctrine of Justification by 
Faith alone in particular, so he says, " will not suffer the 
contrary." Why heed the complaints of the Catholics and 
the Empire ? Christ witnessed " the destruction of the 
Kingdom of the Jews " and yet proceeded with His work. 
According to this memorandum there was no need of wait 
ing for the Pope s permission to " reform " things ; the 
people are everywhere " bound to accept the doctrine [of 

1 To Spalatin, " Corp. ref.," 1, p. 417. 

2 Cp. ibid., pp. 448 and 451, where he again calls Luther Elias in 
letters written in 1521 to Spalatin. 


Luther] " while evangelical Princes and authorities are " not 
bound to obey the edicts [of the Empire] ; hence, in fairness, 
they cannot be scolded as schismatics." 1 For such a ruth 
less invitation to overturn the old-established order Melanch- 
thon sought to reassure himself and others by alleging the 
" horrible abuses " of Popery which it had become necessary 
to remove ; the war was to be only against superstition and 
idolatry, the tyranny of the ecclesiastical system challenging 
resistance. 2 

Then and ever afterwards the Pope appeared to him in 
the light of Antichrist, with whom no reconciliation was 
possible unless indeed he yielded to Luther. 

In the same year in which he wrote the above his corre 
spondence begins to betray the anxiety and apprehension 
which afterwards never ceased to torture him, due partly 
to what he witnessed of the results of the innovations, 
partly to his own natural timidity. The Peasant War of 
1525 plunged him into dismay. There he saw to what 
lengths the abuse of evangelical freedom could lead, once 
the passions of the people were let loose. At the express 
wish of the Elector Ludwig of the Palatinate he wrote in 
vigorous and implacable language a refutation of the 
Peasant Articles ; the pen of the scholar was, however, 
powerless to stay the movement which was carrying away 
the people. 

A work of much greater importance fell to him when he was 
invited to take part in the Visitation of the churches in the 
Saxon Electorate, then in a state of utter chaos ; it was 
then that he wrote, in 1527, the Visitation-booklet for the 
use of the ecclesiastical inspectors. 

In the directions he therein gave for the examination of 
pastors and preachers he modified to such an extent the 
asperities of the Lutheran principles that he was accused of 
reacting in the direction of Catholicism, particularly by the 
stress he laid on the motive of fear of God s punishments, 
on greater earnestness in penance and on the keeping of 
the " law." Luther s preaching of the glad Evangel had 
dazzled people and made them forgetful of the " law " and 
Commandments. According to Mclanchthon this was in 
great part the fault of the Lutheran preachers. 

1 " Corp. ref.," 1, p. 763. To the Elector of Saxony. 

2 Ibid. 


"In their addresses to the people," he complains in 1526, 
" they barely mention the fear of God. Yet this, and not faith 
alone, is what they ought to teach. . . . On the other hand, they 
are all the more zealous in belabouring the Pope." Besides this 
they are given to fighting with each other in the pulpit ; the 
authorities ought to see that only the " more reasonable are 
allowed to preach and that the others hold their tongues, accord 
ing to Paul s injunction." 1 "They blame our opponents," he 
writes of these same preachers in 1528, " for merely serving their 
bellies by their preaching, but they themselves appear only to 
work for their own glory, so greatly do they allow themselves to 
be carried away by anger." 2 

" The depravity of the country population " he declares in a 
letter of the same year to be intolerable ; it must necessarily 
call down the heavy hand of God s chastisement. " The deepest 
hatred of the Gospel " was, however, to be found " in those who 
play the part of our patrons and protectors." Here he is re 
ferring to certain powerful ones ; he also laments " the great 
indifference of the Court." All this shows the end to be approach 
ing : "Believe me, the Day of Judgment is not far distant." 
" When I contemplate the conditions of our age, I am troubled 
beyond belief." 3 

Regarding his recommendation of penance and confession 
during the Visitations, a conversation which he relates to 
Camerarius as having taken place at the table of a highly placed 
patron of the innovations, is very characteristic. A distinguished 
guest having complained of this recommendation, the patron 
chimed in with the remark, that the people must " hold tight to 
the freedom they had secured, otherwise they would again be 
reduced to servitude by the theologians " ; the latter were 
little by little re-introducing the old traditions. Thus you see, 
Melanchthon adds, " how, not only our enemies, but even those 
who are supposed to be favourably bent, judge of us." 4 Yet 
Melanchthon had merely required a general sort of confession as 
a voluntary preparation for Holy Communion. 

Melanchthon was also openly in favour of the penalty of 
excommunication ; in order to keep a watch on the preachers he 
introduced the system of Superintendents. 

In the matter of marriage contracts his experience led him to 
the following conclusion : " It is clearly expedient that the 
marriage bond should be tightened rather than loosened " ; in 
this the older Church had been in the right. " You know," he 
writes, " what blame ( quantum sceleris ) our party has incurred 
by its wrong treatment of marriage matters. All the preachers 

1 " Corp. ref.," 1, p. 821, memorandum for the Landgrave of Hesse. 

2 Ibid., p. 995. To Balth. During, about September, 1528. 

3 Ibid., p. 981. To Fr. Myconius, June 5, 1528 : " Ego sic angor, 
ut nihil supra vel cogitari possit, quum considero horum temporum 
conditionem." Similar statements of Melanchthon s in Dollinger, 
" Die Reformation," 1, p. 366 ff. 

4 Ibid., p. 938. Letter of September 13, 1528. 


everywhere ought to exert themselves to put an end to these 
scandals. But many do nothing but publicly calumniate the 
monks and the authorities in their discourses. And yet i tne 
same letter he sanctions the re-marriage of a party divorced toi 
some unknown reason, a sanction he had hitherto been unwilli 
to grant for fear of the example being followed by others , ; he 
only stipulates that his sanction is not to be announced publicly ; 
the sermons must, on the contrary, censure the license which u 
becoming the fashion. 1 

Any open and vigorous opposition to Luther s views, so 
detrimental to the inviolability of the marriage tie, was not 
in accordance with Melanchthon s nature. He, like Luther, 
condemned the religious vows on the strange ground that 
those who took them were desirous of gaining merit in the 
sicrht of God. Hence he too came to invite nuns to marry. 
And yet, at the same time, he, like Luther, again declared 
virginity to be a "higher gift," one which even ranked 
above marriage (" virginitas donum est praestantius con- 

"\ 3 

lUglO j. 

He was gradually drawn more and more into questions 
concerning the public position of the Lutherans and had to 
undertake various journeys on this account, because Luther, 
being under the Ban, was unable to leave the Electorate, 
and because his violent temper did not suit him for delicate 
negotiations. Mclanchthon erred rather on the side of 


When, in 1528, in consequence of the Pack 
there seemed a danger of war breaking out on account of 
religion, he became the prey of great anxiety, 
for the good name and for the evangelical cause should 
bloody dissensions arise in the Empire through the fault 
of the Princes who favoured Luther. On May 18 he wrot< 
to the Elector Johann on no account to commence war on 
behalf of the Evangel, especially as the Emperor had made 
proposals of peace. " I must take into consideration, for 
instance, what a disgrace it would be to the Holy Gospel 
were your Electoral Highness to commence war withoi 
first having tried every means for securing peace. "^ 

1 "Corp. ref.," 1, p. 1013. To Myconius, December 1, 1528: 
" Meum scriptum ostendas consulibus ut permittant nubere muherculce. 

2 Cp. ibid., p. 839. " Indicium " of 1526. 

3 "Apologia confess. August.," art. 23. " Symbohsche Bucher, 
ed. Mulier-Kolde, p. 242. _ 9 _ 

* " Corp. ref.. 1. p. 979. Cp. " Luthers Briefweciisel, G, p. 2,4. 


can be no doubt that the terrible experience of the Peasant 
War made him cautious, but we must not forget, that such 
considerations did not hinder him from declaring frequently 
later, particularly previous to the Schmalkaldcn War, that 
armed resistance was allowable, nay, called for, nor even 
from going so far as to address the people in language every 
whit as warlike as that of Luther. 1 In the case of the 
hubbub arising out of the famous forged documents con 
nected with the name of Pack, Luther, however, seemed to 
him to be going much too far. " Duke George could prove 
with a clear conscience that it was a question of a mere 
forgery and of a barefaced deception," 2 got up to the detri 
ment of the Catholic party. On Luther s persisting in his 
affirmation that a league existed for the destruction of the 
Evangelicals, and that the "enemies of the Evangel" 
really cherished "this evil intention and will," 3 Duke 
George did, as a matter of fact, take him severely to task 
in a work to which Luther at once replied in another teeming 
with unseemly abuse. 4 

Melanchthon, like the rest of Luther s friends who shared 
his opinion, saw their hopes of peace destroyed. They read 
with lively disapproval Luther s charges against the Duke 
who was described as a thief, as one " eaten up by Moabitish 
pride and arrogance," who played the fool in thus raging 
against Christ ; as one possessed of the devil, who in spite 
of all his denials meditated the worst against the Lutherans, 
who allowed himself to be served in his Chancery by a gan" 
of donkeys and who, like all his friends, was devil-ridden! 
Concerning the impression created, Melanchthon wrote to 
Myconius that Luther had indeed tried to exercise greater 
restraint than usual, but that " he ought to have defended 
himself more becomingly. All of us who have read his 
pages stand aghast; unfortunately such writings are 
popular, they pass from hand to hand and are studied, 
being much thought of by fools ( praedicantur a stultis )." 5 

J- See below, xx. 4, his Preface to his new edition of Luther s 
Warnunge an seine lieben Deudschen." 
2 Kostlin-Kawerau, 2, p. 113 f. 3 jbid 

V V01 ? keimliche und gestolen Brieffen " (" Werke," Weim. ed , 
30 2, p. 1 ff Erl. ed., 31, p. 1 ff.). The appended exposition of 
Pr bably told S reatl y on many, more particularly on pious 


It was only with difficulty that lie and his Witten- 
friends dissuaded Luther from again rushing into 

the fray. 

In 1529 Melanchthon, at Luther s desire, accompanied 
the Elector of Saxony to the Diet of Spires. The protest 
there made by the Lutheran Princes and Estates again 
caused him great concern as he foresaw the unhappy 
consequences to Germany of the rupture it betokened, and 
the danger in which it involved the Protestant cause, 
interference of the Zwinglians in German affairs also 
him with apprehension, for of their doctrines, so far as they 
were opposed to those of Wittenberg, he cherished a deep 
dislike imbibed from Luther. The political alliance which, 
at Spires, the Landgrave of Hesse sought to promote between 
the two parties, appeared to him highly dangerous from the 
religious point of view. He now regretted that he had 
formerly allowed himself to be more favourably disposed 
to Zwinglianism by the Landgrave. In his letters he was 
quite open in the expression of his annoyance at the results 
of the Diet of Spires, though he himself had there done his 
best to increase the falling away from Catholicism, and, with 
words of peace on his lips, to render the estrangement 
irremediable. In his first allusion toihe now famous prol 
he speaks of it as a " horrid thing." 1 His misgivings in 
creased after his return home, and he looked forward to 1 
future with anxiety. He was pressing m his monitions 
against any alliance with the Zwinglians. On May 17, 152 
he wrote to Hieronymus Baumgartner, a member of 
Nurcmb rg Council :" " Some of us do not scorn an alliance 
with the [Zwinglian] Strasburgers, but do you do your 
utmost to prevent so shameful a thing." 5 The pains o 
hell have encompassed me," so he describes to a friend 
anxieties. We have delayed too long, " I would rather die 
than sec ours defiled by an alliance with the Zwinglians. 
" I know that the Zwinglian doctrine of the Sacramcr 

* To his friend Camerarius from Spires, April 21, 1529, " Corp. ref.," 
], p. 1060, " Habes rein horribilem." 

L/orp. rei., , p. in7f> " Una res nocuit wobis, 

3 T^n Timtus ToHlS JimO 14", J.O^V , p. Awiu , 

qmm diu^proera^ati su^ cum *^ $&" Zinahanos. time ego in laniarn ,7_ /l0 ,.; 

rebus ostensurum esse. 


the Body and Blood of Christ is untrue and not to be 
answered for before God." 1 

After he had assisted Luther in the religious discussion 
held at Marburg between him and Zwingli in the autumn of 
1529, and had witnessed the fruitless termination of the 
conference, he again voiced his intense grief at the discord 
rampant among the innovators, and the hopelessness of 
any effort to reunite Christians. " I am quite unable to 
mitigate the pains I suffer on account of the position of 
ecclesiastical affairs," so he complains to Camerarius. " Not 
a day passes that I do not long for death. But enough of 
this, for I do not dare to describe in this letter the actual 
state of things." 2 

Luther was much less down-hearted at that time, having 
just succeeded in overcoming a persistent attack of anxiety 
and remorse of conscience. His character, so vastly different 
from that of his friend, now, after the victory he had won 
over his " temptations," was more than ever inclined to 
violence and defiance. Luther, such at least is his own 
account, refused to entertain any fear concerning the success 
ot his cause, which was God s, in spite of the storm threaten 
ing at Augsburg. 

Melanchthon at the Diet of Augsburg, 1530. 

At Augsburg the most difficult task imaginable was 
assigned to Melanchthon, as the principal theological 
representative of Lutheranism. His attitude at the Diet 
was far from frank and logical. 

He made his own position quite puzzling by his vain 
endeavour to unite things incapable of being united, and to 
win, by actual or apparent concessions, temporary tolera 
tion for the new religious party within the Christian Church 
to which the Empire belonged. Owing to his lack of theo 
logical perspicuity he does not appear to have seen as clearly 
as Luther how hopeless was the rupture between old and 
new. He still had hopes that the Catholics would gradually 
come over to the Wittenberg standpoint when once an 
agreement had been reached regarding certain outward and 
subordinate matters, as he thought them. " Real unifica- 

" Corp ret "" lj p - 1078 
On November 14, 1529. 


tion," as Johannes Janssen says very truly, " was altogether 
out of the question. " For the point at issue in this tremen 
dous ecclesiastical contest was not this or that religious 
dogma, this or that addition or alteration in Church dis 
cipline ; it was not even a question merely of episcopal 
jurisdiction and the sense in which this was understood and 
allowed by Protestant theologians ; what was fundamentally 
at stake was no less than the acceptance or rejection of the 
doctrine of the infallibility of the Church, and the recogni 
tion or non-recognition of the Church as a Divine and 
human institution of grace, resting upon the perpetual 
sacrifice and priesthood. The Protestants rejected the 
dogma of the infallibility of the Church and set up for them 
selves a novel ecclesiastical system, they also rejected the 
perpetual sacrifice in that they denied the doctrine of the 
perpetual priesthood. . . . Hence the attempts at recon 
ciliation made at Augsburg, as indeed all later attempts, 
were bound to come to nothing." 1 

In the " Confession of Augsburg," where the author shows 
himself a past-master in the art of presentation, Melanch- 
thon presents the Lutheran doctrine under the form most 
acceptable to the opposite party, calculated, too, to prove 
its connection with the teaching of the Roman Church as 
vouched for by the Fathers. He passes over in silence 
certain capital elements of Lutheran dogma, for instance, 
man s unfreedom in the performance of moral acts pleasing 
to God, likewise predestination to hell, 2 and even the 
rejection on principle of the Papal Primacy, the denial of 
Indulgences and of Purgatory. A Catholic stamp was im 
pressed on the doctrine of the Eucharist so as to impart to 
it the semblance of the doctrine of Transubstaiitiation ; 
even in the doctrine -of justification, any clear distinction 
between the new teaching of the justifying power of faith 
alone and the Catholic doctrine of faith working by love 
(" fides formata charitate ") is wanting. Where, in the 
second part, he deals with certain traditions and abuses 
which he holds to have been the real cause of the schism, 
he persists in minimising the hindrances to mutual agree 
ment, or at least to toleration of the new religious party. 
According to this statement, all that Protestants actually 

1 " Hist, of the German People " (Eng. Trans.), 5, p. 262 f. 

2 See Luther s own doctrine, vol. ii., pp. 223 ff., 265 it., 291 


demanded was permission to receive communion under both 
kinds, the marriage of priests, the abolition of private 
masses, obligatory confession, fasts, religious vows, etc. 
The bishops, who were also secular princes, were to retain 
their jurisdiction as is cxpressely stated at the end, though 
they were to see that the true Gospel was preached in their 
dioceses, and not to interfere with the removal of abuses. 1 

In the specious and seductive explanation of the " Con 
fession," errors which had never been advocated by the 
Church were refuted, while propositions were propounded 
at great length which had never been questioned by her, in 
both cases the aim being to win over the reader to the 
author s side and to divert his attention from the actual 
subject of the controversy. 

Luther, to whom the work was submitted when almost 
complete, allowed it to pass practically without amendment. 
He saw in it Melanchthon s "soft-spoken manner," but 
nevertheless gave it his assent. 2 

He was quite willing to leave the matter in the hands of 
such trusty and willing friends as Melanchthon and his 
theological assistants at Augsburg, and to rely on the 
prudence and strength of the Princes and Estates of the new 
profession there assembled. Secure in the " Gospel-proviso " 
the Coburg hermit was confident of not being a loser even in 
the event of the negotiations not issuing favourably. Christ 
was not to be deposed from His throne ; to " Belial " He 
at least could not succumb. 3 

The " Confession of Augsburg " was not at all intended 
in the first instance as a symbolic book, but rather as a 
deed presented to the Empire on the part of the protesting 
Princes and Estates to demonstrate their innocence and 
vindicate their right to claim toleration. During the years 
that followed it was likewise regarded as a mere Profession 

1 Cp. Kolde in J. J. Miiller, " Symbolische Biicher " 10 , Introduction 

p. ix.: There was no mention therein of the Papal power and it was 

to the pleasure of His Imperial Majesty, should he see any reason, 

to attack the Papacy thus the Strasburg envoys in 1537 in Kolde, 

Anal. Lutherana," p. 297 ; for, as Melanchthon openly admitted to 

Luther, the Articles must be accommodated to the needs of the moment 

Kolde, ^b^d. (" Symbol. Biicher "), p. via. f. Luther to the 

Elector of Saxony, May 15, 1530, " Werke," Erl. ed 54 p 145 

( Briefwechsel," 7, p. 335) : "I see nothing I can improve upon or 

alter, nor would this be fitting seeing that I am unable to proceed so 

sottly and quietly." 

3 On the " Gospel-proviso," our vol. ii., p. 385 ff. 


on the part of the Princes, i.e. as a theological declaration 
standing on the same level as the Schmalkalden agreement, 
and forming the bond of the protesting Princes in the 
presence of the Empire ; each one was still free to amplify, 
explain, or modify the faith within his own territories. 
Finally, however, after the religious settlement at Augsburg 
in 1555, Melanchthon s work began to be regarded as a 
binding creed, and this character was to all practical purposes 
stamped on it by the " Concord " in 1580. l 

On August 3, 1530, a " Confutation of the Confession of 
Augsburg," composed by Catholic theologians, was read 
before the Estates at the Diet of Augsburg. The Emperor 
called upon the Protestants to return to the Church, 
threatening, in case of refusal, that he, as the " Guardian 
and Protector " of Christendom, would institute proceed 
ings. Yet in spite of this he preferred to follow a milder 
course of action and to seek a settlement by means of lengthy 
" transactions." 

The " Reply " to the Confession (later known as " Con- 
futatio Confession-is Augustance "), which was the result 
of the deliberations of a Catholic commission, set forth 
excellent grounds for rejecting the errors contained in 
Melanchthon s work, and also threw a clear light on his 
reservations and intentional ambiguities. 2 Melanchthon s 

i Cp. Kolde, ibid., p. xxiv. ff. K. Mullor, " Die Symbole cles 
Luthertums " (" Preuss. Jahrb.," 63, 1889, p. 121 ff.), points out why 
Luther looked askance at any Symbolic Books ; the fact is he did not 
recognise any Church having " a legal and ordered constitution a 
laws such as would call for Symbolic Books." G, Kriiger says ( Phihpp 
Melanchthon," 1906, p. 18 f.) : " The Confession and its Apology wer 
wrono-ly interpreted by the narrow-minded orthodoxy of later yeaib 
as laws binding on faith. And yet why did Melanchthon go 011 im 
proving and polishing them if he did not regard them as his own 
personal books, which he was free to alter just as every author may 
when he publishes a new edition of his work ? " Yet they were 
genuine charter of evangelical belief as understood by our Reformers.^ 
2 Cp J Ficker " Die Konfutation des Augsburgcr Bekenntmsses, 
Gotha and Leipzig, 1891, where the " Confutatio" is reprinted 
original form (p. 1 ff.). Adolf Harnack says (" Lehrb. der Dogmen- 
gesch," 3*, 1910, p. 670, n. 3): "The duplicity of the Augustana 
has become still more apparent in Ficker s fine book on 
Confutaiio The confuters were unfortunately right m many ( 
the passages they adduced in proof of the lack of -openness e 
parent in the Confession. In the summer of 1530 Luther was 
not so well satisfied with the book as he had been in May, e 
he too practically admitted the objections on the score of dissimu 
lation made by the Catholics." Harnack quotes m support of t 
dissimulation 5 the passage at the end of Article xxi. ( 


answer was embodied in his "Apologia Confessionis 
Augustana," which well displays its author s ability and 
also his slipperiness, and later took its place, side by side 
with the Confession, as the second official exposition of 
Lutheranism. It energetically vindicates Luther s dis 
tinctive doctrines, and above all declares, again quite 
falsely, that the doctrine of justificatory faith was the old, 
traditional Catholic doctrine. Nor does it refrain from 
strong and insulting language, particularly in the official 
German version. The opposite party it describes as shame 
less liars, rascals, blasphemers, hypocrites, rude asses, 
hopeless, senseless sophists, traitors, etc. 1 This, together 
with the " Confessio Augustana," was formally subscribed 
at the Schmalkalden meeting in 1537 by all the theologians 
present at the instance of the Evangelical Estates. Thus 

Biicher " 10 , p. 47) : "Hcecfere summa est doctrines apud nos [Harnack : 
8U08] m qua cerni potest nihil inesse, quod discrepet a scripturis vel ab 
ecclesia catholica vel ab ecclesia romana, quatenus ex scriptoribus nota est." 
On p. 684 Harnack says concerning the Confession of Augsburg : " That 
the gospel of the Reformation has found masterly expression in the 
Augustana I cannot admit. The Augustana was the foundation of a 
doctrinal Church ; to it was really due the narrowing of the Reformation 
movement, and, besides, it was not entirely sincere. ... Its state 
ments, both positive and negative, are intentionally incomplete in 
many important passages ; its diplomatic readiness to meet the older 
Church is painful, and the way in which it uses the sectarians [Zwing- 
lians] as a whipping-boy and deals out anathemas is not only un 
charitable but unjust, and dictated not merely by spiritual zeal but by 
worldly prudence." Still he finds " jewels in the earthen vessel " ; 
but, as regards the author, we may say without hesitation that 

Melanchthon in this instance undertook was forced to undertake a 

task for which his talents and his character did not fit him." 

As regards the position of the Augustana in the history of Protestant 
ism, Harnack remarks on the same page, that the free teaching of the 
Reformation then began to develop into a " Rule of Faith." " When to 
this was added the pressure from without, and when, under the storms 
which were gathering (fanatics.. Anabaptists), courage to say anything 
quod discrepet ab ecclesia catholica vel ab ecclesia romana, quatenus ex 
scnptonbus nota est, faded away, then the movement terminated in 
the Confession of Augsburg, which while not actually denying the 
principle of evangelical freedom, nevertheless begins to pour the new 
wine into old vessels (cp. even the Articles of Marburg). Did the 
Reformation (of the sixteenth century) do away with the old dogma ? 
It is safer to answer this question in the negative than in the affirmative 
But if we admit that it attacked its foundations, as our Catholic 
opponents rightly accuse us of doing, and that it was a mighty prin 
ciple rather than a new system of doctrine, then it must also be ad 
mitted that the altogether conservative attitude of the Reformation 
towards ancient dogma, inclusive of its premisses, for instance, Original 
bin and the Fall, belongs, not to its principle, but simply to its history." 
1 Dpllinger, " Die Reformation," 3, p. 280 ff., with a more detailed 
appreciation of the Apologia. 


it came to rank with the Confession of the Princes and, like 
the former, was incorporated later, in both the Latin and 
the oldest German version, in the symbolic books. * 
* Melanchthon, in the Apologia," re-stated anew th, 
charts already raised in the " Confess against Cathoh 
doma, nor did the proofs and assurances to the contrary 
of the authors of the " Confidaiio" deter him from again 
foisting on the Catholic Church doctrines she had neve, 
taught Thus he speaks of her as teaching, that the foi- 
giveness of sins could be merited simply by man s own 
works (without the grace and the merits of Christ) ; he 
will have it that the effect of grace had formerly been 
altogether lost sight of until it, was at last brought again to 
Hght-though as a matter of fact " it had been taught 
throughout the whole world." 2 

We must come back in detail to the allegations made in 
the Confession, and more particularly in the Apology 
that Augustine was in favour of the Lutheran doctrine ot 
Justification ; this is all the more necessary since 
Reformers, at the outset, were fond of claiming the authonty 
of Augustine on their behalf. At the same time the admis 
sions contained in Mclauchthon s letters will show us more 
clearly the morality of his behaviour in a matt 
capital importance. 

At the time when the Confession was printed it had already 



ial letter to Brenz. Here he speal 

1531, in a 

; his ideas disagreed with St . . 

. Reprinted in the " Bymb. Biicher," p. 73 H. Cp. Kolde s Intro- 
duction, p. xl. f. 

d i&Ei," <>> p- l8 " Corp - ret -" * p - m - 


first draft of the " Confessio " was sent to the press. 1 According 
to the authentic version, Melanchthon s words were : " That, 
concerning the doctrine of faith, no new interpretation had been 
introduced, could be proved from Augustine, who treats diligently 
of this matter and teaches that we obtain grace and are justified 
before God by faith in Christ and not by works, as his whole 
book De Spiritu et littera proves." 2 

The writer of these words felt it necessary to explain to Brenz 
why he had ventured to claim this Father as being in " entire 
agreement." He had done so because this was " the general 
opinion concerning him ( propter publicam de eo persuasionem ), 3 
though, as a matter of fact, he did not sufficiently expound the 
justificatory potency of faith." The " general opinion " was, 
however, merely a groundless view invented by Luther and his 
theologians and accepted by a certain number of those who 
blindly followed him. In the Apology of the Confession, he 
continues, " I expounded more fully the doctrine [of faith 
alone], but was not able to speak there as I do now to you, 
although, on the whole, I say the same thing ; it was not to be 
thought of on account of the calumnies of our opponents." Thus 
in the Apology also, even when it was a question of the cardinal 
point of the new teaching, Melanchthon was of set purpose 
having recourse to dissimulation. If he had only to fear the 
calumnies of opponents, surely his best plan would have been 
to silence them by telling them in all frankness what the Lutheran 
position really was ; otherwise he had no right to stigmatise 
their attack on weak points of Luther s doctrine as mere calum 
nies. Yet, even in the " Apologia," he appeals repeatedly 
to Augustine in order to shelter the main Lutheran contentions 
concerning faith, grace, and good works under the aegis of 
his name. 4 

Melanchthon s endeavour to secure for Protestantism a 
place within the older Church and to check the threatened 
repressive measures, led him to write letters to the Bishop 
of Augsburg, to Campeggio, the Papal Legate, and to his 

1 Kolde, ibid., p. xxi., on the Latin edition which appeared at the 
end of^ April or the beginning of May, being followed by the German 
edition (probably) in the autumn. 

2 " Symb. Biicher," p. 45. The Latin text runs : " Tola hcec 
causa habet testimonia patrum. Nam Augustinus multis voluminibus 
defendit gratiam et iustitiam ftdei contra merita operum. Et similia docet 
Ambrosius. . . . Quamquam autem haec doctrina (iustiflcationis) con- 
temnitur ab imperitis, tamen experiuntur pice ac pavidce conscientice 
plurimam cam consolationis afferre." 

3 In the letter to Brenz mentioned above. 

4 Cp. the passages, " Symb. Biicher," pp. 92, 104, 151, 218. On p. 104 
in the article De iustificatione he quotes Augustine, De spir. et litt., in 
support of Luther s interpretation of Paul s doctrine of Justification. 
On p. 218 he foists this assertion on the Catholics, "homines sine 
Spiritu Sancto posse . . . mereri gratiam et iustificationem operibus," 
and says, that this was refuted by Augustine, " cuius sententiam supra 
in articulo de iustificatione recitavimus." 


secretary, in which he declares stoutly, that the restoration 
of ecclesiastical harmony simply depended on two points, 
viz. the sanction of communion under both kinds and the 
marriage of the clergy, as though forsooth the two sides 
agreed in belief and as though his whole party acknow 
ledged the Pope and the Roman Church. 

In the letter to Cardinal Campeggio he even assures him : 
" We reverence the authority of the Pope of Rome and the 
whole hierarchy, and only beg he may not cast us off. 
. For no other reason are we hated as we are in Germany 
than because we defend and uphold the dogmas of the 
Roman Church with so much persistence. And this loyalty 
to Christ and to the Roman Church we shall preserve to our 
last breath, even should the Church refuse to receive us 
back into favour." The words " Roman Church " were not 
here taken in the ordinary sense, however much the con 
nection might seem to warrant this ; Melanchthon really 
means his pet phantom of the ancient Roman Church, 
though he saw fit to speak of fidelity to this phantom in 
the very words in which people were wont to protest their 
fidelity "to the existing Roman Church. He further asked 
of the Cardinal toleration for the Protestant peculiarities, 
on the ground that they were " insignificant matters which 
might be allowed or passed over in silence " ; at any rate 
" some pretext might easily be found for tolerating them, 
at least until a Council should be summoned." 1 

Campeggio and his advisers refused to be led astray by 
such assurances. 

On the other hand, some representatives of the 
theologians or dignitaries of the German Church, allowed 
themselves to be cajoled by Melanchthon s promises to the 
extent of entering into negotiations with him in the hope of 
bringing him back to the Church.- Such was, for instance, 
in 1537, the position of Cardinal Sadolet. 

To Sadolet, Johann Fabri sent the following warning 
" Only the man who is clever enough to cure an incurable 
malady, will succeed in leading Philip a real Vertumnus 
and Proteus back to the right path." 2 

e zur katl, Kirche 

zuruckzufiihren," 1902,(" Schriften des Vet-ems fur RG., xix 3. 

3 On January 28, 1538. Kawerau, M > p. 44 Cp. ( 
" Philipp Melanchthon," Berlin, 1902, pp. 362 ff., 598. 


Melanchthon was nevertheless pleased to be able to 
announce that Cardinal Campeggio had stated he could 
grant a dispensation for Communion under both kinds and 
priestly marriage. 1 

With this Luther was not much impressed : "I reply," 
he wrote to his friends in the words of Amsdorf, " that I 
s - on the dispensation of the Legate and his master ; 
we can find dispensations enough." 2 His own contention 
always was and remained the following : " As I have always 
declared, I am ready to concede everything, but they must 
let us have the Evangel." 3 To Spalatin, he says later : 
" Are we to crave of Legate and Pope what they may be 
willing to grant us ? Do, I beg you, speak to them in the 
fashion of Amsdorf." 4 

On the abyss which really separated the followers of the 
new faith from the Church, Luther s coarse and violent 
writing, " Vermanug an die Geistlichen zu Augsburg," 
throws a lurid light. Luther also frequently wrote to cheer 
Melanchthon and to remind him of the firmness which was 

Melanchthon was a prey to unspeakable inward terrors, 
and had admitted to Luther that he was " worn out with 
wretched cares." 5 Luther felt called upon to encourage him 
by instancing his own case. He was even more subject to 
such fits of anxiety than Melanchthon, but, however weak 
inwardly, he never winced before outward troubles or ever 
manifested his friend s timidity. Melanchthon ought to 
display the same strength in public dealings as he did in his 
inward trials. 6 

1 To Veit Dietrich, July 8, 1530, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 174. 

2 To Jonas, Spalatin, Melanchthon and Agricola at Augsburg 
July 15, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 113. 

3 To Melanchthon, June 29, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 45. 

4 On August 28, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 233. " Obsecro te, ut 
Amsdorftce responded.? in aliquem angulum : Dass uns der Papst mid 
Legat wollten im Ars lecken. " 

5 From Luther s letter to Melanchthon of June 27, 1530, " Brief 
wechsel," 8, p. 35 ; " tuas miserrimas curas, quibus te scribis consumi." 
This was really due to the " greatness of our want of faith." 

6 He writes to Melanchthon on June 30, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, 
p. 51 : " Si nos ruemus, met Christus una ! Esto mat, malo ego cum 
Christoruere quam cum Ccesare stare." His cause was without "temeritas " 
and quite pure, " quod testatur mihi Spiritus ipse. Ibid. : " Ego pro te 
oro, oravi et orabo nee dubito, quin sim exauditus ; sentio illud Amen in 
corde meo." The entire letter mirrors his frame of mind during his stay 
at the Castle of Coburg. 


The Landgrave Philip, a zealous supporter of Luther and 
Zwingli, was not a little incensed at Melanchthon s attempts 
at conciliation, the more so as the latter persisted in 
refusing to have anything to do with Zwinglianism. In one 
of his dispatches to his emissaries at Augsburg, Philip says : 
" For mercy s sake stop the little game of Philip, that shy 
and worldly-wise reasoner to call him nothing else." 1 The 
Nuremberg delegates also remonstrated with him. Baum- 
gartner of Nuremberg, who was present at the Diet of 
Augsburg, relates that Philip flew into a temper over the 
negotiations and startled everybody by his cursing and 
swearing ; he was determined to have the whole say him 
self and would not listen to the Hessian envoys and those 
of the cities. He " did nothing " but run about and indulge 
in unchristian manoeuvres " ; he put forward " unchristian 
proposals " which it was " quite impossible " to accept ; 
"then he would say, Oh, would that we were away! " 
The result would be, that, owing to this duplicity, the 
" tyrants would only be all the more severe " ; "no one 
at the Reichstag had hitherto done the cause of the Evangel 
so much harm as Philip " ; it was high time for Luther " to 
interfere with Philip and warn pious Princes against him." 2 

Amongst the Protestant so-called " Concessions " which 
came under discussion in connection with the " Confutatio " 
was that of episcopal jurisdiction, a point on which Melanch 
thon and Brenz laid great stress. It was, however, of such a 
nature as not to offend in the least the protesting Princes 
and towns. In the event of their sanctioning the innova 
tions, the bishops were simply " to retain their secular 
authority " : Melanchthon and Brenz, here again, wished 
to maintain the semblance of continuity with the older 
Church, and, by means of the episcopate, hoped to strengthen 
their own position. Such temporising, and the delay it 
involved, at least served the purpose of gaining time, a 
matter of the utmost importance to the Protestant repre 
sentatives. 3 

Another point allowed by Melanchthon, viz. the omission 

1 Ellinger, " Melanchthon," p. 280. 

2 To Spengler, September 15, 1530, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 372. 

3 In his " spes transactionis " ("Corp. ref.," 2, p. 201) Molanchthori 
even described the previous tampering with the Church as " temerarii 
motus" (ibid., p. 246 seq.). Kawerau, in Moller, " Lehrb. cler KG.," 3 3 , 
p. 112. 



of the word " alone " in the statement " man is justified by 
faith," was also of slight importance, for all depended on 
the sense attached to it, and the party certainly continued 
to exclude works and charity. Melanchthon, however, also 
agreed that it should be taught that penance has three 
essential elements, viz. contrition, confession of sin and 
satisfaction, i.e. active works of penance, " a concession," 
Dollinger says, " which, if meant seriously, would have 
thrown the whole new doctrine of justification into con 
fusion." 1 It may be that Melanchthon, amidst his manifold 
worries, failed to perceive this. 

At any rate, all his efforts after a settlement were ruled 
by the " Proviso of the Gospel " 2 as propounded by Luther 
to his friends in his letters from the Coburg. According to 
this tacit reservation no concession which in any way 
militated against the truth or the interests of the Evangel 
could be regarded as valid. " Once we have evaded coercion 
and obtained peace," so runs Luther s famous admonition 
to Melanchthon, " then it will be an easy matter to amend 
our wiles and slips because God s mercy watches over us." 3 
" All our concessions," Melanchthon wrote, " are so much 
hampered with exceptions that I apprehend the bishops will 
suspect we are offering them chaff instead of grain." 4 

A letter, intended to be reassuring, written from Augsburg on 
September 11 by Brenz, who was somewhat more communicative 
than Melanchthon, and addressed to his friend Isenmann, who 
was anxious concerning the concessions being offered, may serve 
further to elucidate the policy of Melanchthori and Brenz. Brenz 
writes : "If you consider the matter carefully you will see that 
our proposals are such as to make us appear to have yielded to a 
certain extent ; whereas, in substance, we have made no con 
cessions whatsoever. This they plainly understand. What, may 
I ask, are the Popish fasts so long as we hold the doctrine 
of freedom ? " The real object of the last concession, he had 
already pointed out, was to avoid giving the Emperor and his 
Court the impression that they were " preachers of sensuality." 
The jurisdiction conceded to the bishops will not harm us so long 
as they " agree to our Via media and conditions " ; they 

1 " Die Reformation," 3, p. 297. 

- Luther to Melanchthon, June 29, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 45 : 
" Sicuti semper scripfti, omnia sis concedere paratus, tantuin solo evan- 
gelio nobis liber -e permisso." 

3 August 28, 1530, " Briefwechsel," 8, p. 235 : " dolos ac lapsus 
nostros facile emendabimus," etc. Cp. our vol. ii., p. 386. For proof 
that "mendacia" should be read after " clolos^ see Grisar, " Stimmen 
aus M.L.," 1913, p. 286 ff. 

4 To Camerarius, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 334. 


themselves will then become new men, thanks to the Evangel ; 
" for always and everywhere we insist upon the proviso of 
freedom and purity of doctrine. Having this, what reason would 
you have to grumble at the jurisdiction of the bishops ? " l It 
will, on the contrary, be of use to us, and will serve as a buffer 
against the wilfulness of secular dignitaries, who oppress our 
churches with heavy burdens. " Besides, it is not to bo 
feared that our opponents will agree to the terms." The main 
point is, so Melanchthon s confidential fellow-labourer concludes, 
that only thus can we hope to secure " toleration for our doctrine." 2 

When Melanchthon penned this confession only a few 
days had elapsed since Luther, in response to anxious letters 
received from Augsburg, had intervened with a firm hand 
and spoken out plainly against the concessions, and any 
further attempts at a diplomatic settlement. 3 

In obedience to these directions Melanchthon began to 
withdraw more and more from the position he had taken up. 

The most favourable proposals of his opponents were no 
longer entertained by him, and he even refused to fall in 
with the Emperor s suggestion that Catholics living in 
Protestant territories should be left free to practise their 
religion. The Elector of Saxony s divines, together with 
Melanchthon, in a memorandum to their sovereign, de 
clared, on this occasion, that it was not sufficient for 
preachers to preach against the Mass, but that the Princes 
also must refuse to sanction it, and must forbid it. Were 
we to say that Princes might abstain from forbidding it, 
and that preachers only were to declaim against it, one 
could well foresee what [small] effect the doctrine and 
denunciations of the preachers would have."- The 
theologians," remarks Janssen, " thus gave it distinctly to 
be understood that the ne